Right in the middle of an economic crisis, railway operators are raring to increase fares, but it's still the call of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
During the public hearing on Friday, February 17, petitioners for train fare adjustments---Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) for Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1), Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) for LRT-2 and DOTr-Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3)---claimed that revenues from increased fares can enable them to improve, rehabilitate and maintain their facilities and rolling stocks.
However, the fare hike is nothing but an added burden to commuters and taxpayers, argued multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).
Approving the fare hikes of LRT 1 and 2, as well as MRT3, will add to the woes of over 800,000 commuters who depend on these mass transport systems.
Last year, MRT-3 averaged 273,141 commuters per day, or over 98 million commuters in 2022. LRT-1 averaged 251,000 commuters per day; LRT-2, 300,000 commuters per day.
LRT-1 and LRT-2 are petitioning for an additional P2.29 increase in boarding fee and P0.21 for the next kilometer.
The MRT-3 wants to hike its fare from P13 -P28 to P17 - P34.
To illustrate, one ride from Roosevelt to Balintawak, now priced at P15, will go up to P20 and there will be a P2 increase for stored value cards.
"This is anti-people. Private companies are only after big profit margins," Bayan maintained. "Under LRMC’s contract, the government will pay once the corporation is not able to charge a fare hike.”
However, “We could forego the P1 billion annual subsidy from the national government to realign to other priority projects,” says MRT-3 General Manager Federico Canar, Jr.
LRMC General Counsel Jimmy Santiago argued that increased fares will "expand the operational capacity of the corporation".
The LRMC, LRTA-LRT-2 and DOTr-MRT submitted their manifestations to the petition for the fare adjustments this Friday.
Petitioners and stakeholders must then submit their position papers on Monday, February 20, 2023 no later than 5:00 p.m.
The Rail Regulatory Unit (RRU) will do a thorough review and appraisal of the petitions, afterwhich DOTr Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista will decide whether to approve or deny the fare increases.
Stakeholders present during Friday's public hearing include Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary General Renato Reyes, labor alliance Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Vice Chair Lito Ustares, National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection, Inc. Chair Elvira Medina, representatives from National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Kabataan and Akbayan, and other civil society organizations.