By Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) | January 4, 2015
MANILA, Philippines - Commuters taking the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Metro Manila will have to pay more beginning today .
Despite opposition from commuters and various groups, the management of the MRT and the LRT Lines 1 and 2 will implement the fare increase today.
Copies of the updated fare table were posted at MRT and LRT stations yesterday.
“Yes, it will push through,” Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) spokesman Michael Arthur Sagcal said in a text message, referring to the fare adjustment.
Last Dec. 20, the DOTC issued Department Order No 2014-014 setting the new fares for the country’s three major mass transport systems in the metropolis starting Jan. 4.
The DOTC has decided to adopt a uniform distance-based fare scheme for MRT-3 as well as for LRT-1 and LRT-2 pursuant to the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan.
The Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) board approved a formula in May 2011 in which a fixed rate of P11 base fare plus P1 per kilometer would be charged to MRT and LRT passengers.
The proposed fare hike was revived when President Aquino stated in his 4th State of the Nation Address in July last year that it was about time to pursue the fare increase.
Based on the new matrices, end-to-end trips on LRT-1 (Baclaran to Roosevelt) and LRT-2 (Recto to Santolan) will increase from P20 to P30 and P15 to P25, respectively.
End-to-end trips on MRT-3 (North Avenue to Taft Avenue), meanwhile, will increase from P15 to P28.
The government last raised fares for LRT-1 to P15 in 2003 while fares of LRT-2 have remained unchanged.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya earlier said MRT and LRT fares would definitely be raised but only after the Christmas season.
“It’s a tough decision, but it had to be made. It’s been several years since an increase was proposed. While 2015 will see increased fares, it will also see marked improvements in our LRT and MRT services,” Abaya earlier said in a statement.
Since government subsidizes around 60 percent of the cost for each LRT-1 and LRT-2 passenger and around 75 percent for each MRT-3 passenger, Abaya said an estimated P2 billion would be freed up for development projects and relief operations in other parts of the country.
“I’m referring to the vast majority of Filipinos outside of Metro Manila – those in other parts of Luzon, in the Visayas and in Mindanao, most especially those whose lives have been severely affected by typhoons and calamities. They will be the real beneficiaries of a more equitable distribution of these savings,” he said.
The projected savings is equivalent to 8,240 classrooms, 82 kilometers worth of farm-to-market roads or 11,440 hectares’ worth of irrigated farmlands.
He pointed out that the government would continue to shell out around P10 billion per year to subsidize the operations of MRT and LRT.
The MRT and LRT fare hike comes amid the rollback in the minimum jeepney fare to P7.50 from P8.50. The Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board is studying petitions for fare cuts for buses, UV Express and taxis on the back of declining oil prices in the world market.
Groups opposed to the fare hike are set to contest it before the Supreme Court tomorrow. They also vowed to launch protest actions beginning today.
To file for petition for temporary restraining order are the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Train Riders Network (TREN), Riles Laan sa Sambayanan Network, Anakbayan, Kilusang Mayo Uno, National Center for Commuter’s Safety and Protection and some concerned individuals.
“There are technicalities and requirements that the DOTC failed to comply with in announcing the fare hike,” TREN spokesman James Relativo said.
He stressed that the DOTC is not a regulatory body, and that the latter did not hold a public consultation before deciding on the P11 plus P1 per kilometer fare increase formula. TREN had earlier called for the resignation of Abaya.
“We have seen and tested this time and time again – the fare increase wouldn’t ensure better services,” Relativo said.
“The mass railway system’s direction of privatization has incurred so much debt that the chunk of government subsidy is actually going to the private sector and not to actual maintenance,” he added.
Congress allotted P1.2 billion under the 2014 supplemental budget and another P9 billion in the 2015 national budget for the repair and rehabilitation of the MRT.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said protest actions would be launched beginning today at selected LRT and MRT stations, including at MRT’s North EDSA station and LRT’s Recto and Monumento stations.
In a text message, Reyes called the fare hike “unjust and illegal.”
He said Abaya is not authorized to order a fare hike. “He has no authority to exercise quasi-judicial functions similar to those vested in LTFRB, which approves fares (for jeeps, buses, and taxis),” Reyes said.
“The fare hike is supposedly based on two documents – the LRTA board resolution and the ‘recommendations’ by the MRT3 office, both of which were never published nor presented during any of the public consultations,” he said.
“There was grave abuse of discretion and utter lack of transparency on the part of the DOTC,” he added. – With Janvic Mateo, Aie Balagtas See