SENATOR Ralph Recto asked the Senate to conduct an investigation on the planned railway fare hike while a progressive party-list representative suggests other viable options to keep it low.

In filing Resolution 58, Recto said there is a strong public clamor for a careful review of the proposed increases of the three mass transit systems -- the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) and in the two lines of the Light Rail Transit (LRT).

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"The planned increases would greatly affect the hundreds of thousands of commuters who rely on the prevailing low fares of MRT 3, LRT Line 1 and LRT Line 2 to get around Metro Manila," Recto said in his resolution.

He added that the investigation also aims to determine if there are other ways to recover losses in maintenance and operations without passing it to the commuting public.

Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño, meanwhile, called on the administration to consider other viable options to help subsidize the mass transit systems instead of resorting to fare hikes.

He suggested for the government to conduct a comprehensive review on the way system is run, removing unnecessary perks and bonuses to management.

He also recommended the adding of couches to increase passenger revenue and asking business establishments along the train routes to contribute to a subsidy fund as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Casiño added that local government units (LGUs) along the train route could contribute to the subsidy since they directly benefit from the MRT and LRT.

"The administration must note that the MRT and LRT also benefit the private companies and government agencies whose employees use it to get to their workplaces. It benefits the mall owners and vendors that have sprouted in its terminals," he said.

"It benefits the motorists for reducing traffic volume on our highways. It benefits the power sector. It benefits the environment through lower carbon emissions. This is the overall view that tells us that subsidizing the system is advantageous," he noted.

The 17-kilometer MRT 3 stretches from Taft Avenue in Pasay City to North Avenue in Quezon City and will be linked to the LRT Line 1, which goes from Baclaran in Pasay City to Monumento in Caloocan.

The LRT Line 2 currently has 11 stations and stretches from Claro M. Recto Ave. in Manila to Santolan in Pasig City.

The proposal to increase fare rates is aimed at partially lifting the burden of government in extending heavy state subsidy to cover rising cost of their operations.

While the increase is still being deliberated, the proposed new fare rate is from P14 to P20 or P25, which the government describes as still less than the subsidy it gives to each passenger, which is estimated at P45.

On a daily basis, close to 500,000 passengers take the MRT 3 and the LRT Line 1, while the daily ridership of LRT Line 2 is about 250,000. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)