Group welcomes fare hike deferment

THE Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network on Monday welcomed the deferment of the March 1 fare increase declared by the LRTA Administrator last Saturday as a victory for the poor people who had actively campaigned against it since last year.

However, they also called on the people to remain vigilant since the threat for an increase in fares is still present in the absence of Malacanang’s categorical commitment to scrap the fare hike altogether.

Sammy Malunes, Riles Network spokesperson, said that they appreciate the positive gesture of the LRTA to defer the fare hike immediately after the public consultations. “We take it as a step towards meeting our demand for the complete junking of the anti-poor fare hike proposal. We hope that the signatures, position papers and reactions of the different sectors would be prioritized so that Malacanang will scrap the fare increase.”

The two-day public consultations have been characterized by strong opposition from different sectors of society. On the first day, students and youth leaders walked out of the consultations before it formally concluded after representatives of the DOTC spoke to express that they had no other option but to raise fares. The DOTC only offered the possibility of discounted fares which was not what the students wanted.

RILES Network said that discount offers will not answer the arguments raised by the oppositors citing that increasing the fares is contrary to the principle of public mass transport as a public service. “Raising the fares is a form of commodifying public transport and slowly transforming it to a profitable business.”

On the second day of the public consultations the DOTC representatives agreed that the fare hike is not meant to address the people’s need but to raise money for its debts from onerous build-lease-transfer (BLT) contracts with private investors and lending corporations.

“The LRT system is created in accordance with the government duty to ensure the peoples’ mobility amidst heavy metro traffic and to lessen the pollution in the atmosphere caused by emissions from other modes of transport.  Therefore, the LRTA must uphold its responsibility as public servants. Instead of increasing fares, the government must give enough budget for the LRTA to continue its affordable and efficient service. We hope to unite with progressive and pro-poor officials within the LRTA and DOTC to fight for the LRT as a government service.”

Malunes further explained that the root cause of the fare hike is the policy direction of the Aquino government passing up vital public services and structures to corporate hands through the public-private partnership (PPP).  They called on the Filipino people to continue to oppose Aquino’s public-private partnerships and assert our right to receive the services we deserve in exchange for the taxes that we pay.

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