Train fare hike 'wrong timing'-A A +A
Friday, September 9, 2011
MANILA -- People who use Metro Manila's three railway systems for their daily commute said the increase was unnecessary, especially since it was announced at a time when prices of commodities are high.
Commuters interviewed by Sun.Star said it would be best for the government to keep the rates low to avoid squeezing the incomes of ordinary employees and students.
Luisito Opiana, a government employee, said the reduction of the state subsidy for the train lines is anti-commuter.
"I think it is not justified for the government to raise the train fares. It is better for the government to look after the plight of the poor and increase wages rather than push for this increase," he said.
The new fare rates, ranging from P15 to P30, are supposed to take effect on March 1 but massive opposition from militant students and workers during the consultation process prompted the government to defer it temporarily.
"We'll still be pursuing the fare adjustment but we'll see to it that it can be afforded by the riding public," LRTA Administrator Rafael Rodriguez earlier said.
On Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III finally broke his silence on the issue, saying it was just a matter of time before the new rates will take effect.
For months, the government said it has to increase fares at the Light Rail Transit 1 and 2 and Metro Rail Transit-3 due to rising operating costs and ballooning debt.
View the commuters’ reactions on the new MRT and LRT fare hike in a larger map. Click on a placemark to see the video interview.
LRT Line 1 traverses Baclaran in Pasay City to Balintawak in Caloocan City, while the Line 2 starts at Recto in Manila and ends at Santolan in Marikina City.
The 17-kilometer MRT-3 passes through Edsa North Avenue up to Taft Avenue in Pasay City.
LRT Line 1 passengers are being charged P12 for the first four stations, P15 until Monumento and P20 after reaching Balintawak.
Line 2, on the other hand, imposes a top fare of P15. MRT fares range from P10 to P15.
The maintenance of the LRT system is the first to be bid out under President Aquino's public-private partnership program.
Past officials of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) claimed that the private sector can do a better job in operating public utilities, with the government spending at least P7 billion in yearly subsidies to keep train fares affordable to ordinary commuters.
But with the reduced state funding, the department has estimated it could save approximately P1.2 billion a year.
For her part, security guard Gemma Tabaco was baffled why the government had to push through with the plan.
"There are so many people using the MRT and LRT every day. I don't think they are losing money because of the subsidy," said Tabaco, who was once assigned to secure the entry points of MRT stations from early 2009 to 2010.
Arnold Barangan, who works as a property custodian for the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), is not cold to the proposal.
But at the same time, he said the rate hike would be more palatable to the public if the government can ensure better service which includes lesser defective trains.
"I've already experienced riding trains that bogged down during rush hour. I hope they can address that," he said, adding he takes the train daily from Pasay City to Quezon City.
He, however, insisted that the railway system is better left to public, its rates remain subsidized, and service area even expanded to serve more poor commuters of the metropolis and nearby provinces.
A study released earlier by Kabataan party-list showed the increase will add as much as P1,800 to the monthly expenses of commuters who rely on the LRT or MRT for their daily mobility.
At least 1.2 million commuters take the LRT and MRT daily as the LRTA eyed proceeds from the fare hike for improvements at the railway systems, among others.
As the government expects some people to migrate to buses in light of the impending train fare hike, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) declined to give comment to Sun.Star on the matter as of this posting Thursday.
And while the public and lawmakers debate as to the viability of the proposal, a senior economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific said the government may end up endorsing a "tricky political decision."
"The increase in train fares is called for because without it, the government will continue to subsidize operations. This will exert pressure on government finances. Politically, this is unattractive due to increase in fares of toll fees, etc. It's a bitter pill to swallow,” professor Cid Terrosa told Sun.Star.
Cebu Representatives Pablo John Garcia (3rd district) and Tomas Osmeña (2nd district), for their part, support the metro rail fare hike.
"I agree with the general principle that taxpayers from all over the Philippines shouldn't be subsidizing the fare rates of Metro Manila. Why should we, in Cebu, for instance, pay for lower Metro Manila fares when we don't even have a mass transport system in Cebu?" Garcia told Sun.Star in a text message.
Osmeña, vice-chairman of the House committee on appropriations, noted that the cost of running the MRT-3 alone is about P9 billion. The total revenues from Metro Manila commuters, however, only total to P2 billion.
"The taxpayers lose P6.8 billion a year!" he said in a text message.
President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday said the impending rail fare increase in the capital will allow the government to save funds for the mass transport projects in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Under the proposed fare hike, passengers for LRT and MRT would have to pay a minimum fare of P11, and will add P1 for every kilometer. The minimum charge under the present system is P10 for the MRT, and P12 for LRT 1 and 2.
Negros Occidental Representative Alfredo Benitez, member of the House committee on transportation, also agreed with Aquino and Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II that the government should not subsidize the operations of metro trains.
Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Representative Sherwin Tugna, also a member of the House transportation committee, said he is also in favor of the fare hike but the timing, however, posts a problem.
"It is possible that it is necessary to increase rates at the present time. However, the problem is timing. It is not proper at this time because of the current economic situation of our people," he told Sun.Star in a text message.
Opposition lawmaker Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay, meanwhile, is asking the government to delay the implementation of the increase in MRT and LRT fares until such time that the oil prices in the world market stabilizes.
Magsaysay said the best option would still be to maintain the current rates but since the government has already decided to impose the increase, then perhaps it could compromise on the time of its implementation date.
"Now is not the best time to impose price hikes on the train fares because consumers and commuters are already reeling from high cost of goods and gasoline due to increasing prices of petroleum products in the world market," she said in a press statement. (Sunnex)