People Power vs fare, price hikes
SIMULTANEOUS protest actions were launched in packed MRT and LRT stations Wednesday to protest the impending maneuvers of the LRTA board to ensure the increase in the fares of the last remaining government-subsidized mass transport system.
Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network reiterated that the LRT-MRT fare increase is burdensome to the people, illegal, unnecessary, profit-driven and contrary to public interest. He called on the members of the board to junk the proposal that did not go through the legal processes that are mandatory in upholding the public interest.
RilES Network spokesperson Sammy Malunes said that the public service law requires all public convenience and necessity, including the rail system, to undergo price regulation before imposing new rates to the public.
“The LRTA charter only provides them the mandate to fix the fares. But ultimately, as proponents, fare rates will have to undergo regulation measures to ensure that the public interest will not be sidelined in the favor of profit,” Malunes said. The LRTA board is composed of cabinet members/secretaries of the DOTC, Finance, DBM and NEDA. Only LRTA Administrator Rafael Rodriguez was present during the consultations for the fare hike.
“The consultations reveal that the fare increase is only meant to collect the peoples’ money to pay for the onerous debts with the lenders/investors of the LRT and MRT. The current fares are enough to cover the actual expenses for the operations of LRT-1 and 2. Additional fares will only be used to pay for the equity payments incurred in the build-lease-transfer (BLT) agreement with private developers,” Malunes added.
“That fact negates the argument that taxpayers from elsewhere are subsidizing commuters in Metro Manila. The truth is that all of us are being forced to subsidize the private investors and lenders of the LRT system.”
The group believed that the increase in fares, tolls and payment for social services is meant to pave the way for the full privatization of important government services. “Public-private partnership is Aquino’s marketing slogan to woo in investors and totally abandon the government’s responsibility of providing services to the people.”
“There was an overwhelming clamor to stop the fare increase from the students, workers and the riding public in general but it seems to be falling on deaf ears. Will the Aquino’s ‘tuwid na daan’ follow the path of his predecessor who also refused to listen to the people?”
The group also announced its campaign to the riding public and asked the latter to participate by wearing black ribbons or campaign stickers while riding the MRT and LRT. It is also set to mobilize on February 24 in time for the meeting of the LRTA board of directors and in unity with other sectors of society who are also protesting the incessant increases and the impending MRT-LRT fare hike. –D’Jay Lazaro