Ease traffic, takeover MRT-LRT

5 Oct

Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network staged a protest action this morning at the MRT North Avenue Station in order to launch what it calls the “People’s Campaign for Government Takeover of the MRT-LRT” which it said is more timely given the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila.

“Tama na ang kapalpakan sa MRT at LRT. Sobra na ang matinding trapiko. Panahon na para i-takeover ng gobyerno ang MRT at LRT at pahusayin ang serbisyo ng mga ito. Malaking hakbang ito sa pagpapaluwag ng trapiko,” said Sammy Malunes, the network’s spokesperson.

RILES Network was joined by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno and transport group Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operators Nationwide or PISTON in asking the passengers to sign a petition containing the demand.

In the protest, the group reiterated its opposition. The action takes place exactly 9 months following the implementation of the MRT-LRT fare hike which, the group claimed, is only the beginning.

“The fare hikes are oppresive,” said Sammy Malunes, spokesperson of the network. “It’s a clear attack on working people.”

After the next increase projected for 2016, a round-trip on the LRT 1 between Roosevelt and Buendia will amount to PHP 65 or 14% of the daily minimum wage. According to the Ibon Foundation, a 2007 survey revealed that 68% of MRT and LRT passengers were in fact low-income earners, i.e., earners of less than PHP 10,000 per month.

Though the concession agreement imposes a schedule of regular fare hikes, Malunes explained, the concessionaires still cut corners on rail system maintenance to save money. In doing so they put commuters at risk. Malunes indicated in particular the MRT concessionaires’ refusal to replace the signaling system. This monitors train movements in order prevent collisions.

During 2000-2013, MRT concessionaires benefited from PHP 32.5 billion in equity rental payments by the government, while during this same period these concessionaires made no significant improvements on the rail system.

RILES Network calls out the LRT 1 privatization as economically irrational, citing that before it was privatized, it was economically self-sufficient. It operated in 2013 with an average farebox ratio of 1.29 (a ratio of 1 indicates 100% recovery of management and operations costs). Its revenue exceeded its expenses without yet accounting for non-rail income (e.g. advertising, leases, etc.).

“This kind of irrationality is exactly why we’re calling for a government takeover of the MRT-LRT now. It should be a service to the people, not a vehicle for the profits of the few.”

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