‘Fare hike will only go to private profit,’ says commuters’ group

9 Jul

riles

Despite claims that the looming LRT fare hike has nothing to do with privatization, it is clear that the increase in fare rates is due to the impending takeover of the LRT by the Ayala-Metro Pacific consortium, said concerned citizen commuters’ group Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network.

The government claims that privatizing public transportation will benefit commuters. But it is obvious that it will only benefit the private consortium which now tries to profit by increasing fares, said RILES Network spokesperson Sammy Malunes.

The LRT and MRT train networks are part of the public transit system for poor commuters, Malunes added. It is the duty of the government to provide affordable public transport alongside other basic social services.

Both the LRT Authority (LRTA) and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) have said that the proposed fare hikes will definitely take effect within this year, and likely by August.

LRTA spokesperson Hernando Cabrera told the media that the fare hike had nothing to do with the planned privatization of the LRT 1, due to take effect by September.

However, under the terms of the concession agreement between the Aquino administration and the Light Rail Manila Consortium — comprised of Metro Pacific Investments, owned by Manuel V. Pangilinan, and Ayala Corp. — fare hikes are part and parcel of the P64.9-B extension, maintenance and operation project.

Apart from an agreement to build an extension of the line to Bacoor, Cavite, the Public-Private Partnership project also establishes regular fare hikes to ensure a profit from maintaining and operating the existing line, explained Malunes.

According to LRT officials, the fare hike will be P5.00 for the first eight stations (from P12-P17), and P15 for the entire route, from Roosevelt Station to Baclaran Station (from P20-P35).

“This is in line with what the Ayala-Metro Pacific Consortium has done to other public services like water and electricity,” said Malunes. “If you want to know who benefits from the privatization of public transport, look at the high rates charged by Meralco, Manila Water, and Maynilad, which are also owned by the same consortium.”

The concession agreement between the government and the consortium further states that the fare rate should be periodically adjusted to ensure a profit. If the fare is not increased, then the government will pay the deficit.

Under this skewed deal, commuters, taxpayers, and other citizens will always lose out. Only the private concessionaire wins, said Malunes.

“Fare hikes should not be an option,” he said. He further explained that if the government is going to pay for the trains’operations anyway, then it should simply allocate the money directly to public transport as a social service, instead of privatizing the train network and paying the money to a private consortium.

“This affects everyone, especially struggling sectors like low-wage workers and students,” said Malunes. “We are disgusted that the Aquino administration does not put the interests of the commuting public above the interests of private businesses.” 

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