MANILA – A Senate bill proposing to institutionalize the granting of 20-percent fare discount to bona fide students on land, water and air transport utilities has drawn mixed reactions both from the government and private sectors.
During Tuesday’s public hearing on Senate Bill No. 203 authored by Senator Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara, Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) president George San Mateo said their group is supporting ‘in principle’ the measure.
”We support the bill in principle but we are not in favor of the whole year-round provision because our sectors, specially the jeepney and tricycle drivers, belong to the poorest sectors of our society and it would be too costly for us because we earn PhP200 to PhP400 a day only,” San Mateo said.
He suggested that the group be given subsidy by the government if the bill will be enacted into law.
The Integrated Metro Manila Bus Operators Association (IMBOA) headed by Claire dela Fuente has expressed concern on the definition of the term student which, according to the bill, is not more than 30 years old.
”A 30-year-old student is already earning. Thus, we proposed the age coverage be reduced to at least 25,” Dela Fuente said.
She said the a year-round fare discount for an estimated 35 million students will really affect their income since IMBOA is also giving 20% discount to almost six million senior citizens.
Atty. Elmer Triste, manager of the administrative department of the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), supported the bill but like the PISTON, also asked for government subsidy.
”The 20% student fare discount will affect the financial viability of the LRT,” Triste told the Senate committee on education, arts and culture chaired by Senator Pia Cayetano.
The LRTA and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 recently increased their fare by PhP1 per kilometer.
Representatives of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), particularly the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), supported the proposed law which Angara has been pushing since 2004 when he was still congressman of Aurora province.
”I’m so thankful to Senator Pia for sponsoring my bill,” Angara said.
Department of Education (DepEd) regional director Dr. Luz Almeda for the National Capital Region (NCR) said the bill will definitely help students, some of whom have classes even on Saturday.
National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) secretary general Lovely Carpon welcomed the bill as a big help particularly for poor students.
Due to time constraint, Cayetano will call for another hearing to get more information specially from the sea and air transport groups.
Meanwhile, Cayetano’s committee approved Senate Bill No. 2147 or an act recognizing the British School Manila (BSM) as an educational institution of international character.
Under the bill authored by Senator Antonio Trillanes, the BSM operated by British Education Inc. has been continuously in operation in the Philippines since 1976.