Manila: Various groups are opposing the government’s move to hike fares for Metro Manila’s intracity elevated train service as they accused the Aquino administration of favouring the interests of big business rather than those of commuters.
The “Nagkaisa,” (United) said a move of the Department of Transportation and Communications to allow a substantial increase in fares for the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transport (MRT) would hit commuters, especially at a time when they needed the elevated trains to get around the metropolis for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The groups opposing the train fare hike said the rate increase had come at a bad time.
“The rate of every crushing ride in MRT and LRT will be rising at a time rates in other public utility transport are falling because of plummeting prices of fuel oil. The timing is not just bad,” said Josua Mata, secretary general of Sentro ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (United Workers Centre or Sentro).
On the part of the Associated Labour Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), it said the issue is a matter of confused priorities and an ill-effect of the past and present government’s lack of foresight to invest in vital public infrastructures on its own without reliance from the private sector which has its own business interests to look after.
Quite simply they said, the issue of elevated train fare hikes is indicative of the clashing interests of the private
businesses that own and developed the MRT.
The LRT was started during the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos in the early 1980s. It was developed to provide cheap and fast transport to commuters in Metro Manila. To do this, the then government had to socialise the infrastructure, in effect “subsidising” a portion of the fares for every train rider.
The MRT on the other hand, which was developed during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos in the 1990s and started operation during the presidency of Joseph Estrada in 2000 was put up mainly from money from private investors rather than the government as in the case of the LRT.
The two public utility infrastructures were from separate and distinct business models and the current government is now trying to blend these two to provide transport to Metro Manila residents and visitors.
“Again, this is another example of the government leading from the back.The result: Over reliance on a greedy, socially irresponsible private sector concessionaire. We are at the not so tender mercy of a government that does not have regulatory resolve,” said Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of ALU-TUCP.
The left-wing umbrella Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance or Bayan) said the matter concerning the fare hikes is an issue of public interest over private sector gain. Fare hikes are much of a political as well it is an economic concern in a developing country such as the Philippines.
Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bayan said the train fare hikes are an “insult” to the commuter riders, most of whom are from the working class, who have to bear riding in unsafe trains.
In the case of the MRT, Japanese experts said the train has increased chances of being involved in a disastrous accident as its rails and overall running systems have been poorly maintained.
Last August 14, a train of the MRT overshot its tracks at the Taft station. The accident caused injury to a number of people. Fortunately there were no fatalities.