Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Expressway toll hike protest

"The economic hardship is already too much. The people are already beaten black and blue by the never-ending increases in the prices of petroleum products, electricity, water, matriculation fee and basic goods, and now the VAT increase and the collection of excessive toll fees at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx)."

Thus shouted by many of the some 10,000 protesting individuals who came from the towns of Balagtas, Bocaue, Plaridel, Bulacan, Malolos and Bustos as well as residents of Guiguinto.

The protesters forced open the Tabe exit of NLEx by bulldozing the barriers in protest of its closure about a week ago. It was also a way to dramatize their disappointment over toll fee hike at NLEx.

Some 200 members of Sanlakas, Partido ng Manggagawa and Aniban ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA) also participated in the protest action to demand the immediate suspension of the toll fee increase and a review of the agreement between the government and the Manila North Tollway Corp. (MNTC).

The removal of the barriers at the Tabe emergency entry-exit in Guiguinto town briefly sparked the tension among the rallyists and the policemen, but the lawmen just stood by and watched the protesters.

Fr. Ety Ignacio, priest of the St. James parish in Plaridel town and one of the leaders of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Bulacan, said the closure of Tabe exit and the unjust toll fee increase are immoral.

Ignacio said that private nvestors like MNTC will always want an immediate recovery of their investments by raising the toll fees.

While the rallyists marched on NLEX to show their collective stance against the issue, many of them shouted, "ang kalsada ay serbisyo, hindi negosyo."

This startled the policemen momentarily as they were sandwiched by the protesting groups.

"Hindi makatarungan ang mahigit na 300 porsyentong pagtataas ng MNTC dahil sa dagdag na pahirap ito sa mga mangagawa at maralita (the more than 300 percent hike in toll fee is not justified because this is an added burden to the ordinary wokers and the poor," a leader of the protesters said.

Other militant groups echoed the resentment of the Bulacan folk against the toll fee hike and lambasted MNTC for alleged violation of Presidential Decree No. 1112 which states that the government must not give the operation to any corporation that was given government guarantee for its foreign loan.


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