DOTC budget under threat because of train fare hike

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Veteran lawmakers have threatened to block the budget of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) in connection with the looming fare hike in the Metro and Light Rail Transits.

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Reps. Neri Colmenares and Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna aired the warning after Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya announced that there will be a P5 fare hike for the MRT and LRT by August and another P5 increase by 2014.

“Mass transits are public service and should be subsidized by the government. We in Bayan Muna will file a resolution to investigate this proposed hike and may even block the budget of the DOTC if this pushes through,” said Colmenares.

“Hiking MRT 3 fares defeats the purpose of constructing mass transit systems which is to provide the public with cheap transportation services,” Colmenares added.

Casiño, for his part, pitched some suggestions that he claims are better options on improving the train system sans the fare hike.

These options include: conducting a comprehensive review on the way system is run, removing unnecessary perks and bonuses, correcting onerous loan and business arrangements entered into during the previous administration, adding trains to increase passenger revenue, building bike parking facilities, urging malls and big business establishments along the train routes to contribute to a subsidy fund as part of their service to their buying public, among others.

“The administration must remember that the MRT benefits the private companies and government agencies whose employees use it to get to their workplaces, the mall owners and vendors that have sprouted in its terminals, in addition to reducing the travel time motorists,” Casiño pointed out.

Representative-elect Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis party-list, for his part, sees the fare hike as an additional burden to poor students and their parents.

“The government just want to pass on a large portion of its heavy debt burden to commuters through fare hikes,” Hicap argued.

Per LRT Administration records, the government is paying an average of P7.8 billion annually for financial obligations under the build-lease and transfer agreement of MRT and P2.341 million in annual debts for LRT Lines 1 and 2.

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