22 December 2014
Increasing the fares in the metro railway system more than half from current rates is totally unjust and the most insensitive year-ender policy declaration by the Aquino administration, the labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM) said in a statement.
“Most of train riders are ordinary workers who pay P15 or P20 for every violent ride in our present railway system. A fare increase will add more to this violence,” said PM spokesman Wilson Fortaleza.
Fortaleza explained that a fare increase, particularly in MRT3, would neither mean comfort nor improvement in services as more than 70% of its finances goes to equity rental to MRTC, its original private concessionaire.
As per announcement made by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the fare matrix in the three systems shall be adjusted beginning January 4, 2015. These will include 87% hike (from P15-P28) for MRT 3; 67% (from P15-P24) for LRT 2; and 50% (from P29-P30) for LRT 1.
PM together with other groups under the labor coalition Nagkaisa will be planning mass actions to oppose the scheduled fare hikes.
Fortaleza said based on a previous study, 67.7% of regular train commuters earned monthly income of less than P10,000 or less than the minimum wage; some 15% are without income (probably students); while only 1.4% are with income of P30,000.
PM is opposing the impending fare hike based on the following grounds:
§ The fare hike is due to the removal of subsidy and not for the comfort of the riding public.
§ It is a huge burden to commuters, most of whom are ordinary workers who receive starvation wages.
§ The increase is for rental payments to an onerous original contract and an incentive to prospective private concessionaires under the public-private partnership or PPP program.
§ That less subsidy means funds for other services is a pale, fallacious argument.
The group argued that in most countries worldwide the railway system, which is the most efficient mass transport system, is heavily subsidized.
In its position paper submitted to the DOTC during its previous consultations, PM believes that subsidy is not a bad thing if it is in pursuit of social objective. The government should even invest more money to save and develop the country’s crumbling mass transport system.
“To us, subsidizing at least 500 million rides of workers a year is more productive than subsidizing the comfortable travel of 500 VIPs in government,” said Fortaleza, adding that all taxpayers pay for at least P8-billion a year of travel subsidy for our public officials.
The group, which opposes the privatization of the railway system, likewise believe that the fare adjustments were meant as a major incentive for private players who demand highly competitive pricing to be in place before they actually enter a PPP project.