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DOTC execs slammed at MRT, LRT fare-hike consultation

/ 06:46 PM December 12, 2013

Commuters ride on the Manila Railway Transit train along Epifanio de los Santos in Manila. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — “Why? And why now?” were the questions asked repeatedly during a public consultation Thursday on the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) proposed fare increase.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is proposing to raise the fares of the three lines by at least P10 for end station to end station tickets.

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“Magandang Pamasko ito eh (A fine Christmas present),” a sarcastic Sammy Malunes, spokesperson of commuters group Riles Network, said to officials of the DOTC and the LRT Authority (LRTA).

Malunes argued that the proposal had come at the wrong time, with the public still reeling from the previous calamities and the increase in the prices of other necessities.

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He was echoed by Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes who said, “The public is burdened by the successive increase in power rates, LPG prices, oil prices, and possibly a jeepney fare increase.”

Reyes pointed out that the consultation was not even able to attract a big audience, with the holidays fast approaching.

“What is the reason for holding this consultation at this time, when the year is about to end?” he added.

The government officials, however, did not answer.

Reyes said the fare hike was probably being railroaded to entice investors for the privatization of the rail system.

Meanwhile, Elvira Medina of the National Council for Commuters Protection said the fare increase would further burden the workers whose minimum wage is not enough to cover their families’ needs.

“Public transport is a major responsibility of the state to the nation. These are the workers (majority of train passengers) that drive the engines of economy,” she said.

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MRT-3 Director Renato San Jose said they have a budget deficit of P7.25 billion while the LRTA has a deficit of P4.7 billion.

However, opposing groups pointed out that the deficit was not from operating expenses but from debt payment. They claimed it was caused by onerous contracts.

The public consultation is still ongoing.

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