Indefinite suspension of MRT/LRT fare hike, people’s victory—LFS

Posted By: Chris On:

MANILA, Feb. 8, 2011—The riding public, especially the students, can now sigh with relief, as the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) decided to delay the implementation of the new fare matrix for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT).

Terry Ridon, national chairperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), said this development is “an initial victory of the students and commuters who believe that mass rail systems are public services that government must provide to its people.”

LFS, together with different cause-oriented groups such as Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), Anakbayan, Migrante, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), among others have launched a series of protest actions, and even come up with a signature campaign to stop the implementation of the LRT/MRT fare hike.

Ridon also said that during the public consultation on February 4, the DOTC and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) “were unable to explain why commuters must shoulder the payment of LRT loans and MRT leases to private contractors when government through its annual budget had consistently paid for such government debts through the years.”

Last year, the government is said to have paid P7.87 billion to private investors who funded the establishment of the LRT and the MRT. News reports show that out of the P7.87 billion, P5.29 billion represented ERP or the equity rental payment; P1.18 billion, maintenance cost; P1.15 billion, debt-guaranteed payment; P207 million, insurance expenses; and P34 million, other fees and costs.

Ridon, however, believed that the Aquino government, who proposed the fare increase on these modes of transport, must be held accountable as they are passing their obligations of paying these “onerous” loans and leases, directly to the public.

Meanwhile, the LFS also said that it is appalling that the LRTA was only able to collect a few millions in advertising and other non-ticket based revenues. This, according to Ridon, has put in doubt the agency’s revenue-generating measures prior to the proposed fare hike.

The LFS also pressed the government to shelf the proposed fare hike.

In the meantime, KMU Labor Center accused Pres. Benigno C. Aquino III of not doing anything to stop the impending LRT and MRT fare hikes.

Roger Soluta, KMU secretary general in a statement said, if the chief executive is really concerned with the plight of the ordinary Pinoys, he would renegotiate the LRTA’s accumulated debts with the big banks and investors that have poured in their money in creating the LRT and MRT.

“He should stand up for the Filipino workers and people who are suffering from poverty and hunger, and stand up to the big banks and corporations on this issue… Noynoy, however, has made it clear that his government will have none of any proposal that will reduce the immense profits of big banks and corporations. He has pushed for this fare hike even in his first State of the Nation Address. Attracting foreign investors and handing out government assets to them through privatization are his government’s policy,” said Soluta.

During his first State of the Nation Address (SONA), the President himself has announced that the government will push for more public-private partnerships in order to support the government’s infrastructure projects. (Noel Sales Barcelona)

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