Sanggu “awareness act” draws criticism

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A Sanggunian-supported “awareness act” on the recent oil price hikes drew cold reactions from several organizations, who called the act “weak” and “problematic.”

The Oil Price Hike Awareness Act of 2011, authored by Sanggunian Vice President Gio Alejo and Secretary-General Ian Agatep, outlined the causes of the rising fuel prices and government actions to solve the problem.

The act also called on Ateneans to “do their share in limiting their consumption of fuel” through alternatives such as walking and carpooling. It also stipulated that the Sanggunian Central Board would ensure that the proper rates for modes of transportation to school are to be reviewed and followed.

But Ateneo Economics Association Vice President for Academics Michael Cruz said that while they appreciated the council’s concern, the Sanggunian should show more concrete steps that the Ateneo community can take.

“We think it is quite weak. It only promises ‘awareness,’ a call to conserve,” he said. “They are the Sanggunian and they are in a position to actually encourage change, but instead, all we get is a position paper.”

Far from a proactive response

The Assembly President Steffi Sales said the Sanggunian does not understand the full extent of the crisis, which then translates into the “lack of proper action.” The Assembly is the political science student organization in the Loyola Schools.

“The Sanggunian takes a certain social problem and places it in a vacuum, without taking into consideration the larger context the problem is embedded in,” she said. “When you ask the wrong questions, you arrive at the wrong answers.”

She added that if the student council sees the issue merely as the need to carpool or walk due to rising oil prices, the Sanggunian resolution is “far from a proactive response.”

“It is merely an affirmation of the inescapability of people from the controls of corporations that raise such prices,” she said.

The resolution, she added, has become a “mere surface-level awareness campaign.”

“This resolution only stops at adjusting to the problem, and it is through these kinds of actions that we actually end up giving these oil corporations the legitimacy to manipulate and control prices even more, the consequences of which trickle down to students such as ourselves,” Sales said.

According to Sales, a call to repeal the Oil Deregulation Law, which removes government control on oil prices, would be a better response than a simple fuel conservation campaign.

Cruz also said that the act lacked the suggestion of concrete actions for the Ateneo community to take.

“From an economic viewpoint, most people will conserve on their energy use not because other people tell them to, but mainly because of prices,” she said. “The [said act] appeals to our emotions, but is incomplete as it lacks concrete incentives.”

Not a perfect resolution

When asked if they expected the response, Alejo said yes. But he said that their aim was to write resolutions on issues that they consider important and to get student reaction on these issues.

“We’re very open to accepting criticism from any student or even faculty but, also, we request that they try to understand where we’re coming from,” he said.

In response to comments, Alejo said that the awareness act serves mainly as a guide to make them aware of the issue.

However, he said that it also serves as a prerequisite to the Tricycle Rates Analysis Act, which calls on departments of the Sanggunian to act on the issue regarding tricycle rates.

It also aims to create a detailed action plan in cooperation with the University Physical Plant Office and the Tricycle Operators and Drivers’ Association (TODA) in order to come up with a new fare matrix or other solutions such as alternative forms of transportation.

Complaints about the non-compliance of tricycle drivers with the fare matrix have been a constant concern, Alejo said. During talks with the TODA, the drivers said they were unable to maintain their matrix because of the oil price hikes.

Recent tensions and political upheavals in the Middle East have triggered the sudden increase of oil prices by as much as P7 per liter on average. Although the hikes seem to have let up after many months, oil companies continue to increase prices intermittently.

Editor’s Note: Michael Cruz writes for The GUIDON’s Beyond Loyola staff. He has no involvement with The GUIDON’s News section.

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    [...] in his tenure. Well, I’m pretty sure that anyone privy to Sanggu work would know about the much-criticized “awareness” act, which he co-authored. If this person wanted to defame Ian so badly, he easily could’ve cited [...]