MANILA, Philippines – An “added insult and an injustice to the suffering of the riding public” – this was how Senator Grace Poe described the scheduled hike in the fares of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT).
In a statement Monday, December 22, Poe called on the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to “defer the unnecessary and untimely” fare increase which kicks in on January 4.
Poe also criticized the DOTC for failing to mention the fare hike during the Senate’s public hearings on the issue. “How could they be so insensitive to the millions of commuters and MRT, LRT riders?” lamented Poe in the statement.
Under the new fare scheme, maximum rides on the train lines will cost between P28-30 ($0.63-0.67*), from the current P15-20 ($0.34-0.45). In a statement, DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the increase was a “tough decision” that “had to be made.” (READ: Bayan Muna calls for holiday probe into MRT/LRT fare hike)
But Poe, who has led Senate hearings into the state of the MRT, insisted government is “obligated to maintain the subsidy until the system’s services and safety are upgraded.”
“Alam naman natin na may puntong darating na kailangan nating taasan para naman kumita tayo. Pero ayusin natin ang serbisyo. Eh dito naman nakikita nating wala silang dinagdag sa serbisyo, magulo pa rin ang sistema nila, tapos aasahan nila na magbayad ang mga mananakay ng mas mataas,” Poe told reporters in a chance interview Monday.
(There comes a point where you need to raise prices to make a profit. But you have to improve your service first. It’s clear that they’re not adding improving their service, the system is still a mess and yet they expect riders to pay a higher fare.)
The MRT3, which traverses through EDSA, serves as one of the most important public transportation lines in Metro Manila. Several MRT3 stations are located in business hubs.
Mid-August, an MRT3 cart went past its barrier in the terminal Taft station, injuring passengers. Subsequent Senate hearings have also raised “all issues from the basic maintenance concerns to ownership of the kind of trains that we will procure in the coming years,” noted Poe.
Poe noted the announcement of a fare hike comes as both houses of Congress approved a 2014 Supplementary Budget which would allocate P1.2 billion ($26.86 million) for MRT rehabilitation and capacity extension and P728 million ($16.30 million) for the LRT 1 and 2’s rehabilitation.
Some P4.65 billion, meanwhile, has been allocated for the MRT3’s subsidy in the 2015 proposed budget. The figure is one top of the P7.94 billion ($177.73 million) allocated for the line’s rehabilitation and P4.67 billion ($104.53 million) for unpaid taxes, according to Poe. – Rappler.com