Let's take stock of what are lined up to be achieved to make travelling or commuting around, to and from the metro and to other areas in the country before the term of this administration comes to an end-successfully or disastrously.
In line with the government's "Build, Build, Build" program to usher in the "golden age of infrastructure" aimed to provide connectivity of the rural areas to key cities and to ultimately solve the perennial traffic in the metro, several projects, some mega in size have been lined by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
Considered one of the most effective means to transport people, goods and services from the countryside to the metro and back, the railway system has taken center stage with the DOTr's launching of the project to extend the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system to nearby areas in Metro Manila.
The LRT Line 1 extension has started its construction extending the rail line from Baclaran to Niog in Bacoor; Cavite aimed to serve 300,000 riders per day from Parañaque, Las Piñas and Cavite and is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2021.
While the LRT Line 2 East extension project involves the construction of a 4-kilometer extension of the existing system from Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo. It is expected to reduce travel time from Masinag to Recto in Manila from 3 hours by 30 to 40 minutes once completed by August of this year.
Simultaneously, the DOTr also signed with the Mitsubishi Corporation for the purchase of new 120 light rail vehicles for the railway system with each train having a minimum of 1,388 passengers.
Then there is the very ambitious Mega Manila Subway Project (MMSP), which is a 25-kilometer subway system that is envisioned to be an underground mass transportation system connecting major business districts and government centers. It is expected to serve 370,000 passengers daily in its opening year and targeted to start its partial operations by 4th quarter of 2027.
The construction of the first phase of the MMSP, which is expected to start as early as the 3rd quarter of this year would cost PHP355.6 billion. Financed through anOfficial Development Assistance from Japan, it's designed to have 14 stations from Mindanao Avenue, QC to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Having been where I am for the past three decades broadcasting and writing about motoring issues that involve transport and traffic management since the revolutionary government of President Cory Aquino to the present regimen, I can't help the feeling of "déjà vu" whenever a new administration takes over and announces the litany of things that are targeted to be done.
Having seen many promises ending by the wayside destined to be empty political stances or failed efforts due to nuisance TROs or government oversights in working out the rights of way, I have learned not to hold my breath lest I suffocate myself waiting for promised deeds to see their fruition.
All I do now, which I also urge everyone to do is to hope and pray always for our country's best-great way to manage our expectations.
But let's give it a chance!
Through the many years working closely with the automotive industry, I have inevitably established close professional and personal friendships both with its short-term expats and more so with career employees most of whom I have seen grown from mid level managers to top rank executives. As two-way trust has been established conversations need not be discerned between what's on and off the record. And some of such conversations centered on the recently approved TRAIN ( Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion), the final and approved version of which came as a surprise (that's putting it mildly) to many in the automotive industry.
Industry observers who are not from within were also close to being aghast to what finally came out-what was seen to be a tax reform law that was designed to heavily tax luxury vehicles came out seeming to slash prices instead. On the other hand prices of basic utility vehicles, which more of the car-buying public could afford are expected to go up.
Many that are within the automotive industry who are negatively affected by the newly approved tax law are understandably mum about what they feel but instead are coming out with motherhood statements for their full support. I mentioned the trust that I have earned from many of my friends in the industry and I don't intend to compromise my long-established relation with a lot of them by naming names. But I feel as a friend and a journalist who's main concern is to bring out what's true it is my obligation to ventilate some of their feelings, major of which is, "They didn't know what hit them."
I understand that during the early deliberations, when major vehicle manufacturers and importers were being consulted by the legislators, the tone of the discussions was more of protecting the prices of vehicles that are affordable to those who buy for their necessity and heavily tax models that are considered as "toys of the rich". What seemed to be approved was a law that would result to exactly the opposite.
I have asked my staff to come up with simulations of how the new tax law would impact on the future prices of automobiles and compare them with other published ones to see the common grounds. The combined simulations simply show that the more expensive the luxury vehicles are, the bigger the price reduction, while those models that are more affordable for the less affluent or the common motorist would have their selling prices going up.
I'm not saying that the law is flawed. I'm not in a position to come out with such a judgment. I can only ask if this is indeed the purpose of reforming the present tax structure.
And for my friends engage in premium luxury vehicles, please bear with me. Knowing your business ethics, I'm more than convinced that you are not at all gloating over the misfortune of those who have been negatively affected by your "mana from heaven". And of course, understandably why should you ask or complain?
What I understood, and of course I could be wrong, was that the government wanted to unburden the less affluent of the populace of income taxes and in order to offset the government income lost from this laudable exercise, the government would burden the more affluent with additional taxes. But economic experts who are saying that the newly approved law is not going to achieve that are currently not few in numbers. And doing the simple math for the auto industry shows that's not what's going to happen.
I can only ask, I cannot judge.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ray Butch Gamboa graduated from the College of Arts and Letters of the University of Sto. Tomas. It was a course that should have been preparatory to a law degree, but the call of broadcasting aborted his plans.
At the age of 16, while still a student, Butch tried his hand at disc jockeying, landing a job at Mareco Broadcasting Network’s AM stations DZBM and DZLM. From there, Butch moved on with his illustrious career as a popular disc jockey, riding the airwaves of Bob Stewart’s middle-of-the-road music at DZXX, and ending his disc jockeying career at ABS-CBN’s DZYL and DZQL.
From there, he stayed on with ABS-CBN, covering live the proceedings at the Manila Stock Exchange and eventually entered into the world of television sales as an account manager for the premier channel of ABS-CBN Channel 2.
In the early 70’s, at the outbreak of Martial Law, Butch was one of the thousands of professionals who woke up jobless when then President Marcos declared the new status of the nation. With the closure of ABS-CBN, Butch ventured into different fields outside of broadcast. He tried his hand and with ease and success at export (Costume jewelry), real estate (brokerage), and restaurants (fast food).
In 1987, after the revolution, with the broadcast industry back to its free state, and with its irresistible call ringing in his ears, Butch made his inevitable comeback and pioneered in a local motoring show, producing Motoring Today on Channel 4 and co-hosting with local motor sports’ living legend Pocholo Ramirez.
After 4 years, he ventured into another pioneering format by producing and hosting Business & Leisure, which was originally aired on ABS-CBN’s Channel 2. The format eventually espoused similar ones in other different channels. But the clones in due course faded away leaving the original staying on airing on Channel 4 and eventually on Shop TV on Sky Cable’s Channel 13.
The following year, the pioneering spirit in Butch spurred him to produce another TV show, Race Weekend, also on Channel 4, covering circuit racing at the Subic International Raceway after the motor sport’s hiatus of 17 years. But when similar shows with duplicated formats sprouted, he decided to give way and ended the program after a year, although still enjoying unparalleled viewership.
In 1998, when the local automotive industry was in a slump, Butch contributed his share to help the ailing industry by producing another popular motoring-related show, this time exclusive to the automobile and its industry—Auto Focus, which became a vehicle for local automotive assemblers and importers to showcase their products and dwell on the industry’s latest technological developments.
In 2003, Butch teamed up with his brother, Rey Gamboa who was a former Shell executive and presently one Philippine Star’s business columnist to co-produce and co-host the TV show Breaking Barriers on Channel 13. It is a talk show that features guests who are in the news and in the middle of controversies. The program ventures to draw deeper insights into current issues to learn how they impact to our daily lives.
Today, Motoring Today on its 28th year of service to the general motoring public still enjoys its unprecedented loyal vierwership nationwide while Auto Focus, after 16 years has firmly established its niche viewership among automobile enthusiasts and on the other hand Business & Leisure is on its 24th year dishing out current business issues and lifestyle features.
Today, aside from writing weekly columns for the Philippine Star (Motoring Today on Wednesdays and Business & Leisure on Saturdays) and executive producer / host of weekly TV shows (Motoring Today, airs Sundays on Solar Sports Channel 70, Business & Leisure, airs Tuesdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13 and Auto Focus airs Thursdays on Shop TV, Sky Cable Channel 13, Ray Butch Gamboa is currently the Chairman and CEO of Sunshine Television Production and Marketing Services Corp., President of Gamcor Management and Development Corp., Chairman of Asia-Pacific Realty Corporation, President and Chairman of Socio-Communication Foundation for Asia and Founding Chairman of the Society of Phil. Motoring Journalists (SPMJ)