Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘FX’

Where are all the Katulongs ?

Posted by butalidnl on 8 January 2011

Philippines, 9 January 2021. The past decade has seen great progress in the Philippines.  And of all the changes that have happened is one which we didn’t expect would affect the country a lot. And this is the widespread disappearance of live-in domestic servants, otherwise known as katulongs, maids, kasambahays. We are now several years after the era of katulongs is over, and we are living normal lives, losing all our katulongs didn’t result in widespread disaster after all. We learned to live with it, and to thrive even.

Strictly speaking, there are still katulongs in the Philippines. According to the statistics, there are about 50,000 left – domestic servants who are live-in. But this is a far cry from the 2.5 million that were katulongs in 2010. These residual katulongs work mostly for the really rich Filipinos, and the statistics include live-in drivers. They are also quite well paid, if we compare with the 2500 pesos minimum wage for kasambahays in 2011. It is quite common to find katulongs being paid upwards of 8000 pesos per month these days.

What Happened?
A number of things happened. First, the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer program reached millions of families; and it required families to send their children to school, in exchange for a cash payment. Many families opted to join this program, rather than send their teen daughters to work as domestic help.

Second, there was a surge in demand for high school graduates in the labor force.  Millions of workers were needed to work at the many companies that sprouted as a result of the “ASEAN Supply Chain” industries. These were companies that worked on various electronic and appliances, with various parts made in different ASEAN countries. This grew starting 2010 to big proportions, especially with the “China plus 1” policy of Japan and Taiwan, which encouraged companies to have a foot in China, and another in ASEAN (as insurance against possible problems in China). This trend was reinforced by the Chinese raising of wages and US extra taxes on Chinese products.

Initially, the development of the ASEAN Supply Chain, and the booming Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries, and growing number of Overseas Filipino workers,  led to more, not less, people having katulongs. But, with the growth of the economy, there grew the need for people in all kinds of work, like producing consumer products and services.

Separation of Services
People started to pay separate for services previously done by the live-in katulongs.  There would be cleaning women who would work for a four hour period every week for a given household. These women would work for more households, and it pays more for them to contract out their cleaning services than to just stay and live-in with one family.
There would be the labandera who would do all of a family’s laundry on a certain day of the week.  Children are now brought to school and back by FX drivers who are contracted by groups of parents. And day care centers have sprouted to take care of people’s pre-school children. This has taken the place of yayas, for the most part.

Most families have coped  by distributing cooking duties among themselves. The mother/wife is no longer automatically the one who does this task. Very often, it would be the father or the eldest son or daughter who would cook the meals.  And if there are more children, setting and clearing the table and washing dishes are done by the younger ones. And midday meals are more often eaten at work or schools anyway; so there is only breakfast and supper that needs to be eaten at home. One could get a warm cooked meal from someone who cooks in the neighbourhood. Supermarkets also sell meals that are easier to cook, with all ingredients put together.

Children now are burdened with less homework as compared to 2010. Now, elementary school children are expected to spend more time at play and doing chores at home. So, teachers don’t give them too much assignment. And it turned out that they learn about the same as before. So, it worked out well for everyone.

Good for Economy
Why distribute the functions, instead of having the one live-in katulong? Well, the main reason was it was getting too expensive, and there were no more women who were willing to do the work.  But, on hindsight, distributing the functions is more efficient, and good for the economy. Less people, in total, are needed to do all the cleaning and washing.  And cooking – well, this has transformed the kitchen; with people investing in all kinds of kitchen appliances and instruments. And now, trained people are taking care of the babies, instead of the teen barrio girls who used to do this; resulting in a better upbringing of children.

This whole thing has been good for the economy: there are more products and services that are made, and everybody gets to work more efficiently and fully. Things like day care and cafeterias have grown, giving employment to many people. And since more people are efficiently employed, there is more buying power for consumers overall. Thus, the bigger demand for products of all kinds.

It is going so well with the economy, that people are talking about there being a labor shortage.  There are lesser people who want to work abroad.  This has led to a situation where deployment of some kinds of workers is drying up (e.g. domestics for Hong Kong etc), and the recruiting fees for other work has gone down dramatically.  Some say that this would be bad for the economy, with less foreign exchange coming in. But I think this is a good trend; I’m quite happy about it.

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Increasing LRT/MRT Fares

Posted by butalidnl on 2 August 2010

The government is studying the possibility of raising the fares for the LRT and MRT; they will probably raise the fares by September. And while many people will be adversely affected, I think it would generally be a good idea that they do get raised.

Well, the first reason why I think so is that I think that LRT/MRT rates are a bit too cheap. Take the MRT – you could go from one end (almost) of EDSA to the other for 15 pesos. With this amount, you get to ride a fast, airconditioned vehicle all the way (of course, they tend to be quite overcrowded, but that’s beside the point). If you were to ride an aircon bus or FX for the same route, you will pay way more than 30 pesos. Obviously, the government has been subsidizing the MRT like crazy, and that’s why it is so cheap.

The government now wants to cut the subsidy it gives to the LRT/MRT.  They are not saying that they plan to cut the subsidy to zero, just that they don’t want to subsidize it that much anymore. In a sense, it is a good idea. If you think of it, a government subsidy would mean that everybody in the country (including the poor guys in Mindanao) is paying money for the LRT/MRT, and only the people in Metro Manila (and not even all the people there) get to enjoy it. There is something not very fair about this subsidy set-up.

Transportation Infrastructure
Thus, there is a case for cutting the amount of subsidy to the operations of the LRT/MRT. But what do we exactly mean by “operations”? Part of the government “subsidy” goes to the maintenance of the physical infrastructure of the LRT/MRT system. But wouldn’t this be equivalent to the government “subsidy” towards the maintenance of the country’s  road system? After all, cars, jeepneys and buses don’t pay directly for the maintenance of the road system. Funds for this are rightly taken from the general government budget. Thus, it would probably be right for the government to simply shoulder LRT/MRT infrastructure maintenance as part of its expense in maintaining the transportation infrastructure . In other words, a “subsidy” for this would be justified.

Now, let us look at the security in the LRT/MRT system. This is mostly handled by company security guards. In other countries, the security for their metro systems is done by a special unit of the police force (the “Railroad Police”), which is paid for by the taxpayers. A “Railroad Police” force would be similar in function with Highway Police, except of course, that their area of operations would be the railroads. So, if the rail transit companies instead hire security guards, I think it would also be justifiable for this expense to be shouldered by the national budget. The Philippines could also consider forming a “Railroad Police” unit for the LRT/MRT system, which would take over the functions of the private security guards.

Rough Equivalence with Other PUVs
Once we deduct the amounts for infrastructure maintenance and security, we would come up with the real subsidy the government pays for the mass transit systems. And, if we were to take this amount, the resulting fare would be still higher than the equivalent bus ride. And this would be natural, since after all the LRT/MRT is faster and potentially more comfortable than the equivalent bus ride.

I think that the government then will need to also consider other things that have to do with rail transport. One of this would be regarding the amount of pollution that the LRT/MRT system DOES NOT produce. This would mean a lot, since everyone suffers from pollution, not only of carbon dioxide, but especially from soot and other gases that come out of vehicles. The LRT/MRT system is relatively clean, and this should be worth some kind of subsidy.

The main thing that is left, with regards to fares, would be its “affordability”. Passengers would need to afford the LRT/MRT, or else they won’t use it, and that will be an even bigger waste of money.  I think that the key would be to base it, more or less, on the equivalent bus fare. And, in this, I think the LRT/MRT should concentrate more on serving passengers who have longer rides, that those with shorter trips.

For the MRT, I would suggest that the fare be raised from the present 12 pesos for the first five stations, and 15 pesos for longer trips, to a simple flat rate of 20 pesos for all trips. This would mean that passengers on longer trips will have a 33% increase, while those with shorter trips will have an increase of 67%. This should discourage people with shorter trips from riding the MRT, while not be too expensive for those with longer trips (since it would be roughly equivalent to their bus fare).

And the resulting “subsidy”, if  we extract infrastructure maintenance and security, would not be too big anymore. And, whatever the amount that is left, should then be ascribed to the cost of controlling pollution and decongesting our streets.

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Limit Private Vehicles, not PUVs, on EDSA

Posted by butalidnl on 14 July 2010

The MMDA proposal [see MMDA Pushes Number Coding for Buses ] to implement a number-coding scheme for buses in EDSA is not a good idea. The MMDA is proposing this, because it says that PUVs are a source of traffic congestion, and that there are just too many buses in EDSA (they cite the fact that buses often are only half full).

But I find that this is a bad idea. Buses, even when half full, carry many more passengers than private autos. In fact, a lot of cars on EDSA often only have one or two passengers (i.e. including the driver).  And for a bus to work at their optimum level, they don’t need to be always full. In fact, they would probably be full only about half of the time. If they are always full, this would show that there is a shortage of buses for a given route.

And besides, the MMDA is applying upside-down logic regarding traffic congestion. It seems that it wants to “decongest” EDSA to make it more convenient for private car owners, and not for the convenience of the wider public. Because if the convenience of the wider public were to be the main starting point, it will naturally mean that EDSA be decongested so that public transportation will flow smoothly.

What should we do with the traffic at EDSA, then? Well, the first thing would be to adopt sensible traffic rules, and implement these quite strictly. Buses, jeepneys, and FXs should stop only at designated pick-up points. They should force buses to leave even when half full (which I said earlier, may be the more optimum use of buses), instead of allowing them to wait till they are full. Nobody should be allowed to walk across EDSA; they should all take pedestrian overpasses. Taxis should be required to take passengers only from designated taxi stations, and not be flagged down.

Reduce Private Vehicles
And then, there should be steps taken to reduce the number of private vehicles plying EDSA. One way would be to implement a congestion charge for private vehicles using EDSA; that is, all private vehicles using EDSA would have to pay a fee to use it. This would be in the form of a sticker for a year’s use (to cost perhaps something like Php 2000 or so per year) or a single day ticket for say Php 50.  This should lessen the use of EDSA – after all, there are alternative ways of going around the city. And, in connection to this, all small roads that open to EDSA should be made one-way (i.e. only traffic coming from EDSA), forcing vehicles that want to enter EDSA to do so only through major intersections (where they will be checked to see if they have the necessary stickers). The money collected from the access fee should be used to improve public transportation e.g. the LRT.

And then, the capacity of the LRT and MRT should be doubled by adding more cars to the trains, and also by increasing the frequency of the trains. This will encourage some auto riders to take public transportation. The fare should also be increased a bit, making it only a little cheaper than the buses; this will help to get buses to be fuller, and also lessen the subsidy of the government for the LRT.

Construct a LRT line along C5. This should further decongest traffic there, and make it easier to go by public transport if your destination is accessible by C5. This will have an indirect effect of decongesting both EDSA and the MRT.

Then, increase the number of FX allowed to ply EDSA. This will further reduce private car use, while providing an alternative to those using private cars. While FXs ferry fewer passengers than buses; they are an alternative to many people who usually take their cars. It would be better to have more FXs on the road, if this comes in place of more cars.

Build “Transferiums”. These are big parking places for vehicles at the edges of a city, so that people could just park their cars there, and take public transportation from that point on.  For people coming from the provinces, this could be a viable alternative for them, rather than being forced to brave Metro Manila’s traffic. The transferiums should also be the starting point for various airconditioned bus routes into Metro Manila, and if possible be near to LRT/MRT stations.

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