Thursday, July 25, 2013

Workers warn of “Brazil-type protest” over MRT/LRT fare hike

Press Release
July 25, 2013

The labor group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) expressed its opposition to fare hikes for the MRT and LRT as the Department of Transportation and Communications announced public hearings over the proposal. “The fare increases will be a burden on workers, employees, students and the poor who use the MRT and LRT daily. The government must take heed from Brazil where mass protests exploded last month over a similar hike in public transport fares,” averred Renato Magtubo, national chair of PM.

PM declared that it will be organizing protests against the proposed hike. The group also called on the DOTC to open the books of the corporations running the MRT and LRT, and make transparent the computation of the cost of ferrying passengers. The DOTC had said that it spends P40 and P60 for carrying one commuter from end to end at the MRT and LRT respectively.

“The low MRT and LRT fare is a small consolation for the hundreds of thousands who endure riding the biggest can of sardines in Metro Manila. The fare subsidy is a public service that the state must maintain. Environmentally-friendly public means of transport like the MRT and LRT are important common goods no different from government hospitals and public schools,” Magtubo added.

“Before passing the burden to working class and urban poor commuters, the MRT and LRT must first do housekeeping since the suspicion that these corporations are milking cows for favored political appointees is not unfounded. The complaint by the Czechs that there were asked for grease money for the contract to supply new trains remains pending. The alleged US$30 million bribe is enough to cover the cost of the P5 fare hike for 600,000 daily MRT users for 400 days or more than one year (at a P40 to 1 US$ rate),” Magtubo explained.

He also called the argument that people from the Visayas and Mindanao are subsidizing the fare of people from Metro Manila as “divide and rule.” “If that is a correct argument then how come nobody is calling for the abolition of the Philippine General Hospital even though it predominantly caters to the sick in Metro Manila and nearby areas? Instead of cutting back on subsidies on the MRT and LRT, the government must provide for public means of transport such as light rails in the key cities of Visayas and Mindanao.”

PM is demanding that government expand rather than cut back on provision for “common goods.” “Funds must be allocated to make Philhealth universal. The conditional cash transfer program must be reformed so that it is universal rather than targeted and be in the form of cash for work. Such a program is effectively a public employment scheme that puts the millions of unemployed to gainful and dignified work,” Magtubo ended.

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