AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People slams the Department of Transportation for its consecutive failures in providing affordable mass transportation to the public. This is after the removal of “libreng sakay” in the EDSA Busway line, the planned suspension of the Philippine National Railways (PNR), and the simultaneous proposed fare hikes for LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3.
“Instead of being considerate towards our struggling countrymen who already face price increases in many vital commodities, the government seems to be keen in making things harder for the average passenger,” said Cleng Julve, Campaigns Officer of AGHAM. “Coming at a time when inflation is at a record high, fare hikes and the removal of vital transport lines are an added burden which stack upon one another and cause even more hardship.”
The EDSA Busway line began offering free rides in November 2020 amid increasing inflation rates and rising gas prices. The service ended after December 31, 2022 due to budgetary constraints. Meanwhile, the three train lines filed separate fare hike proposals that seek to increase the fares by P2 to P14 depending on route and distance.
“MRT/LRT fare hikes are manifestations of onerous deals between the government and the respective private corporation operating each train line,” said Julve. “That the private partners of the government can file for fare hike petitions reflects the unequal distribution of benefits to only the private concessionaires, meanwhile taxpayers and commuters shoulder the brunt of the costs.”
The terms of the concession agreements vary per entity, but they all include the provision of government subsidy to offset the fare prices for commuters. For example, the concession agreement with LRMC for LRT-1 includes tax exemptions, revenue shortfall subsidies, and sovereign guarantees should the government fail to regularly enact a fare increase.
“Removing the subsidy to realign to ‘other priority projects’ is a gross misunderstanding of what services directly benefit the poor,” said Julve. Millions of Filipinos benefit from subsidized transportation, including workers whose ridership directly translates to economic activity that stimulates growth of the economy.”
The train lines cumulatively served around 600,000 passengers per day in 2022.
“Instead of decreasing state subsidies for vital transport lines, the government should increase public spending on infrastructures for mass transportation such as rails and trains that truly service the Filipino people,” ended Julve. ###