As I See It

Online art auction for the benefit of children

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Want to buy high-quality art pieces at discounted prices? Join Unicef’s art auction on Oct. 1-7. You may choose from 70 artworks by outstanding artists, from paintings to sculptures, to jewelry and fashion accessories, to furniture and home accessories, and other special items. Prices are discounted starting at 40 percent. What’s more, you may view the items and bid for them without leaving your home. You may do it online after clicking on www.unicef.ph. A printed product catalogue is also available. The highest bidders win the items offered. Best of all, the proceeds from the auction will be for the benefit of Filipino children.

The art auction is Unicef Philippines’ way of celebrating the 20th year of National Children’s Month in October—the only annual national celebration that puts children’s rights at center stage. The theme for this year’s celebration is the right of children to play.

Think of it: paintings by Manuel Baldemor, Juvenal Sanso, Nemy Miranda, Lydia Velasco, Mario Parial, Vincent de Pio, and many other outstanding painters; sculptures by Ramon Orlina, Michael Cacnio, Isabel Roxas and others; furniture designed by Kenneth Cobonpue, Ito Kish, Daphne Oseña Paez and others; a strand of South Sea pearls from Jewelmer; petite earrings by Kristine Dee and other pieces of jewelry and accessories; plus special items from Dex Fernandez, Paolo Vinluan and many others—all offered at discounts starting at 40 percent. Some bid prices start as low as P9 and P10,000.

“Buy a beautiful item and help children at the same time,” said Unicef Country Representative Tomoo Hozumi. “Many people don’t realize that Unicef relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, companies and government and the funds raised from the auction will go toward education, health and nutrition, protection and emergency programs for children who are the hardest to reach and most in need.”

This Auction for Action is curated and presented by Daphne Oseña Paez, Unicef Special Advocate for Children. “Playing is a basic right of every child, and its importance to a child’s well-being and healthy development cannot be overemphasized,” she said.

Auction for Action goes live on Oct. 1, 6 p.m., on eBay Philippines.

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President Aquino’s public-private partnership (PPP) program is running into problems in the case of the rehabilitation of the Metro Rail Transit 3 system. MRT3 runs from North Avenue in Quezon City to Monumento in Caloocan to Pasay.

Seeing how the MRT2 trains and coaches that run along Edsa are so inadequate for the needs of passengers, the government wants to buy an additional 52 light rail vehicles (LRVs) for MRT3. It will cost Filipino taxpayers $100 million, or P8.63 billion. The National Economic and Development Authority has already approved this MRT3 capacity expansion project. Besides the acquisition of the 52 LRVs, the project requires ancillary stock works to enable MRT3 to operate from the present 3-car system to a 4-car system. The trouble is that MRT3 is still privately owned, with Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) holding a big chunk of it. Should the government spend P8.63 billion of the people’s money on a private corporation? What does the contract with MPIC provide?

Transportation Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco told the press recently that the government needs time to find out if it has to get the consent of MPIC before bidding out the acquisition of additional LRVs. The Department of Transportation and Communications is still studying the MRT3 contract, he said.

MRT3’s assets, after all, are owned by its shareholders, of which MPIC is the biggest. A provision in the build-operate-transfer agreement gives MPIC the expansion rights to MRT3; MPIC retains the right to allow third-party trains into the system.

Question: Why should the government spend $100 million of the people’s money on a private corporation? Should not the owners spend for its expansion? Won’t that be an addition to the $130-million subsidy that the taxpayers are already putting into the MRT?

The $100 million will supposedly go to the purchase of new trains. But is not the MRT rehabilitation precisely to allow private-sector investors to bankroll this huge capital investment, so that Filipino taxpayers won’t have to shoulder the cost for such projects, and use the savings for the delivery of crucial services or alleviate poverty?

The MRT today has 73 trains but only 60 trains are deployed during peak hours because of a limiting provision in the existing operator contract of MRT3. What kind of contract is this?

The sensible thing to do is deploy all the trains during peak hours because passengers are already packed like sardines in the available trains, with thousands more left waiting in the stations and many more thousands discouraged from using the MRT when they see the long lines of passengers and the packed trains. So why the limiting provision? Because the government subsidizes whatever the private operators do not earn from passengers. In other words, there is no incentive for the private operators to carry more passengers because the government (taxpayers) guarantees their minimum income. Why invest more and work harder when the government pays the difference, anyway?

One more thing: Acquiring new trains won’t solve the efficiency of the MRT system. The operating systems will have to be upgraded to accommodate additional trains. Otherwise, new trains will not be able to run on the MRT lines unless the old ones are retired.

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