Looming MRT Fare Hike a Telling Sign of Hard Life To Come – CWR

The P25-fare hike for railway MRT is a telling sign of more hard life for women, according to the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), a research and training institute.

“The proposed fare hike is not only unjust, it is insensitive to the conditions of the people and partial only to big business and foreign capital,” said Jojo Guan, the executive director of CWR. “Increasing the cost of public transportation will be borne by ordinary citizens, along with the incessant rise of prices on power, fuel, and basic commodities such as sugar and flour,” added Guan.

She challenges the government to explain to the people why the MRT, built under a 25-year build-lease-transfer scheme was losing money, when it was supposed fuel ‘national growth and development’ under the BOT Law?

The total project cost of MRT3 was $675.5 million, funded by a Filipino private consortium (Fil-Estate, Ayala Land, Anglo-Phil Corp., Ramcar Inc., Greenfield Dev. Corp., Antel Land) and through loans tied to Japanese ($287.5 M); Czech ($88.4M); and others ($86.6M) banks in 1998 and another $23M loan in 2001. The DOTC cites the rising operating and maintenance costs which amounts to $2 million (P90M) in a month. Using an average fare of P12.5, fare revenues should amount to P195M a month. But Filipino taxpayers are also subsidizing debts of the private developers of the MRT, as well as the guaranteed 15% ROI per year for the private developer under the BLT agreement.

The government’s justification for the fare hike is that it can no longer afford to pay the government subsidies, which, according to its estimate, is P60/commuter. The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) floated the proposal of a P25 fare hike for railway MRT, which is currently pegged at P15 for the EDSA North to Taft Avenue route. DOTC Secretary Jose de Jesus earlier confirmed that, “Eventually our goal is to acquire ownership and then we can privatize it, at least [the] O&M.” The ultimate goal is to eventually privatize the whole of the railroad industry.

“Based on our experience with privatization, this means more suffering for ordinary Filipinos,” added Guan in response to the proposed MRT fare hike. “The privatization and deregulation of public utilities have resulted to skyrocketing prices – as with power and oil. Rates are going up, while wages stay the same or are lost due to layoffs,” Guan said.

“The Aquino administration must rethink its economic policies. The BLT scheme, as with other forms of PPPs, serves to privatize profits, and socialize the losses,” Guan shared. “Simply put, the minute the government loses money or experiences deficit, it is always the people who must bear the burden. Is this President Aquino’s daang matuwid (straight road)? The straight road should consider the interest of the people first, not private capital,” Guan concluded.

Instead of burdening the people, Guan says the Aquino administration should consider calling for a debt moratorium and the more efficient collection of debts, like that of the MRTC, alleged to owe the government an outstanding debt of P1B.

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