Senators rap Abaya over train fare hike
MANILA, Philippines–Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero on Monday proposed the creation of a government body to regulate fares on the country’s railway systems which, at present, is being done by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
Creation of the rate-setting agency will be studied by the Senate committee on public services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe.
During a hearing on Monday, Escudero and Poe confronted Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya on the timing of the fare hikes in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems, which he announced during the holiday season in December and which took effect in early January.
Abaya’s announcement had taken the public by surprise.
Poe said that even if Abaya had exercised political will in implementing the hike, “political compassion” was also needed.
“We maintain the fare hike was not timely. It was ill-timed. While it was implemented under the aegis of political will, it was not in accordance with political compassion. Social justice is always the domain of government,” Poe said.
Abaya told the senators the decision to implement the MRT and LRT fare hikes was reached a few days before it was announced on Dec. 18.
Abaya had consulted with the country’s economic development managers, and they decided the situation was right for the fare hikes because the prices of gas and other basic commodities had gone down.
He said consultations took place as early as 2011, and the DOTC, after complying with the requirements for a fare hike, only deferred its implementation because the situation in previous years was not the appropriate time.
“We never skirted the fact that we were planning to execute this for the last two years,” Abaya said.
But Escudero asked why the fare hike had to be deferred if it was the right thing to do.
“What I’m driving at is it becomes arbitrary when it will be implemented,” he said.–Leila B. Salaverria
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