RILES to Palace: Protests will end only when MRT-LRT fare hike is junked

6 Aug

 “What public consultation? For sure it would be more like a public announcement.”

 This was the statement of commuter group Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network as it slammed Malacañang for calling for a stop to protests against the planned hikes in fares in the MRT and LRT and for asking protestors to wait for public consultations on the issue where they can express their demands. 

“Why should we wait for so-called consultations when there are already marching orders from Malacañang that the fare hike be implemented? The President himself already said that his government will push through with the fare hike no matter what, so what are the consultations for?” RILES Network spokesperson Sammy Malunes said. 

As RILES Network kicked-off its series of protests against the looming fare hike, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told protesters that the public consultations, and not the streets, are the proper venue to express their concerns.

“We already know their arguments and we are not convinced that there is a need to increase fares. The only reason this government is desperate to push through with the fare hike is to ensure the profits of private big businesses that were guaranteed by contracts onerous to the people,” he added.

According to Malunes, Lacierda’s statement is “another futile attempt to weaken the growing public sentiment against the fare hike.”

“Malacañang wants us to shut up so it can continue deceiving the public with its absurd arguments. But this we assure them: The public will keep protesting until the fare hike is stopped,” said Malunes.

Government take-over

Malunes also disputed Malacañang’s argument that the fare hike is the solution to the high public spending for the MRT and the LRT saying that instead of increasing fares, the government should rescind its onerous contract with the Ayala-owned MRT Corporation (MRTC) and its private contractors and take over the operations of the country’s railway system.

“Filipinos should not be shouldering the costs of this very expensive privatization scheme. It is unjust for the government to make the riding public pay more only to please these profit-greedy private big businesses. We have been spending billions for the railway system, billions that go straight to the pockets of private corporations involved with the MRT and LRT,” Malunes said.

Under its contract with the MRTC, the government has been allotting P5.3 billion a year in subsidy for MRTC’s guaranteed return of investments and P1.2 billion a year to the MRTC and a foreign corporation responsible for the train’s management and maintenance.

Malunes also said that aside from guaranteed profits, taxpayers have also been paying for the MRTC’s debts. In 2012, the government paid P6.7 billion for MRT debts. For 2013, government allotted P5.1 billion in commuter subsidy for debt payments.

“It would be less costly for the government to take over the operations of the MRT. Private corporations have already siphoned off an enormous amount of profits from our taxes. The billions of public funds that this government gave to these corporations should have been enough to operate, maintain and improve the country’s railway systems,” Malunes said.

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