By Marc Jayson Cayabyab | | January 8, 2015

MANILA, Philippines–Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph “Jun” Abaya failed to attend Wednesday’s hearing on the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) fare hike supposedly to attend preparations for the papal visit.

“The secretary is right now very much involved in the preparations for the papal visit. He had to request to be excused,” DOTC Undersecretary Jose Lotilla said.

This irked militant solon Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, who said Abaya has been active in defending the fare hike before the media but not before lawmakers.

“The Secretary is not present but he has always involved the media which cannot interpellate him,” Colmenares said.

Buhay Representative Lito Atienza said it should be Abaya himself who should explain the fare hike.

“He signed the documents. No less than the Secretary should be presenting these,” he said.

Ako Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe said lawmakers may grill the DOTC about the fare hike through Abaya’s deputies.

The DOTC has announced that the new base fare would be P11 and an additional P1 per kilometer.

Beginning Sunday, January 4, LRT and MRT fares increased by 50 to 87 percent.

End-to-end fare at MRT 3 will increase from P15 to P28.

Those at LRT 1 will move up from P20 to P30 for single-journey tickets and to P29 for stored-value cards. The fare at LRT 2 will be P24 for stored-value cards and P25 for single-journey tickets from the current P15.

Abaya has said that the fare hike would be used to offset at least P2-billion government subsidy and would be deposited in escrow to pay the monthly dues to the private owner instead of improving the railway.