‘Refund, not another hike, feasible for MRT, LRT fares’

LRT
LRT

“Year in, year out, it is a fact that these companies are earning hefty profits, thus, they should also be made to absorb the supposed impact of TRAIN and not pass it on to the already overburdened and overtaxed riding public.”

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The MRT-3 and LRT-1 have not yet sufficiently settled before the Supreme Court the legal basis for the fare rate hikes they imposed since 2015. Now another planned fare hike is being pushed, citing the same justification of improving the train’s services.

That proposed fare hike is insensitive and unwarranted, said Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate. He cited the railway systems’ shoddy performance amid healthy annual revenues as reasons enough not only to prevent another fare hike but to refund the previous fare hike.

“We are calling on the Supreme Court to resolve the case the soonest, especially our prayer for returning the fare to its previous rates and for the accumulated funds from the fare hike to be returned to MRT and LRT commuters through discounted fare like what the SC did with the Meralco overcharging in 2013,” said the Davao-based solon.

The last fare hike imposed has not brought much improvement in the experience of the riders, the lawmaker said. Instead of improving services, for instance, the MRT service worsened with three to four daily glitches, with some even endangering the lives of passengers. “With the sacking of the O&M contractor the operations improved for less than a month but at least 1,000 passengers were offloaded earlier yesterday,” said Zarate.

The LRT-1 which had previously performed better compared to MRT3 showed signs of trouble in the past two years with reported train malfunctions and passenger offloading. http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/metro/644003/more-than-100-passengers-unloaded-as-lrt1-train-encounters-problem/story/ Commuters have also complained of doors not opening or closing and of deficient air conditioning.

LRT-1 has a fleet which includes generation-1 LRVs bought in 1984, generation-2 LRVs bought in 1999, and generation-3 LRVs bought in 2007. https://www.philstar.com/business/2018/02/23/1790401/lrt-1-operator-taps-austrian-engineering-experts Since 2015, after three decades of relatively good performance and after paying off the loans incurred to construct it, the train system fell in the hands of a private consortium after the Aquino government’s privatization drive

The LRMC, composed of Metro Pacific Investments Corp.’s Metro Pacific Light Rail Corp., Ayala Corp.’s AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., and Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) PTE Ltd., took over the LRT’s operation and maintenance in September 2015 after it won the contract to operate, maintain and extend the train line to Cavite.

With the train’s privatization, the fruits of the public investment in it have been going to the private groups instead. As a result, the public lost access to the gains of having fully paid up the LRT loans, gains such as the train income paying for its own rehabilitation and expansion. Now the public is regularly expected to pay higher fares. On top of paying the costs of running the train system, the public is expected to shoulder the cost of rehabilitating the trains, plus the required profits of the LRMC.

“There was no need to increase fares then and even now,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Zarate.

The annual MRT and LRT revenues outstrip operation expense. Citing 2014 data, the latest data available on the government website, the LRT earned P2.5 B but only spent P1.03 B for operating expense.

“Year in, year out, it is a fact that these companies are earning hefty profits, thus, they should also be made to absorb the supposed impact of TRAIN and not pass it on to the already overburdened and overtaxed riding public,” Rep. Zarate also said. investigated also by journalist and doctor Gerry Ortega before he was murdered in Palawan seven years ago. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

Update: A day after the proposed LRT fare hike was criticized, Malacañang spokesperson Harry Roque said the government is studying proposals to put on hold the P5 to P7 fare hike for the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) and Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3). Although the Palace said it will see what can be done about it, Roque said if it can’t be suspended, then it (fare) will inevitably rise.

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