Edge Davao (September 19, 2011)
Recently there have been discussions on whether or not the elevated railway systems that exclusively services Metro Manila residents are being subsidized by those of us living in the provinces.
On one side of the debate is Sec. Manuel Roxas of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), who in news reports was quoted as having said that “the government—and ultimately taxpayers— (is) subsidizing fares to the tune of around P40 per passenger, or P7 billion a year.”
Opposing this view is Sen. Ralph Recto, who has argued that not one person living outside of Metro Manila pays for the operations of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) or the Light Rail Transit (LRT). Recto bases his argument on the comparative taxes collected from three Metro Manila cities and those coming from the rest of the country.
Citing data from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which shows that P281.8 Billion – or 83% of the total taxes collected for 2010 came from Quezon City, Caloocan and Makati while the rest of the Philippines only contributed P 56.8 Billion to the national coffers, Recto concludes that the subsidy for the MRT and LRT must naturally come from Metro Manila residents alone.
On the face of it, and if you are as simple minded as Recto is, the argument seems to have merit. Or at least it does until you start factoring such trivial concerns like, say… the provisions on Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) in the Local Government Code, or… how the Philippine government actually works as opposed to how Recto imagines it does.
Sadly – for Recto – if you take these things into consideration, then his delusional argument of how the residents of Metro Manila are the ones being squeezed dry by the rest of the country falls apart like a cheap magic trick in a roomful of skeptics.
What Recto ignorantly fails to take into consideration is the fact that ALL local government units (LGU) – provinces, cities, and municipalities – are required to remit a part of their income to the national government. This is then pooled and only a portion is returned back to the LGU as their IRA.
The rest remains with the national treasury and is used by the government to fund projects that supposedly benefit the whole country. Projects like the modernization of the Armed Forces, infrastructure development, the construction of hospitals and health centers, and (drum roll please)… the operations of the MRT and LRT.
So despite all of Recto’s misinformed protestations and premature political posturing the fact is, by this simple mechanism of tax collection and allocation detailed in the Local Government Code, it is clear that the whole country contributes to something that only Metro Manila residents enjoy. And while an argument can be made that it is a small contribution – miniscule, insignificant – Recto will never be able to dispute that it is there and it came from us – the people of Mindanao.
Ironically this is coming from a guy who for a time served as head of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the Philippines’ “social and economic development planning and policy coordinating body.” With guys like Recto in charge, no wonder we’re neck-deep in shit and still clueless about what to do to get out of it.
You really have to wonder, is the caliber of national leadership we can expect from Recto and those who share the same crazy Manila-centric notions that he has? if it is, then the people of Mindanao will be best served if we kick them out – and keep them out – of office.
And by the way, if there ever was a train that the provinces should subsidize, it’ll be the one-way kind that would run politicians like Recto out of town– permanently.