Groups to question rail fare increase at SC

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SEVERAL groups opposed to the planned fare increase at the Light Rail Transit (LRT)  and Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3) will troop to the Supreme Court (SC) on January 5 to file a petition for certiorari in a bid to stop the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) from implementing the fare adjustment.

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To be led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), multisectoral and professional organizations RILES Network, TREN, government employees, health workers, students and labor groups will assert that the train lines are public utilities that are subject to regulation.

“These are sectors who will be affected by the fare hike. Respondents will include DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, and the heads of the MRT [Metro Rail Transit] 3 office and the LRTA (Ligt Rail Transit Authority),” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.

“We will question the notion that the DOTC/LRTA are at once the proponents, approving bodies and implementors of the fare hike. We will question why DOTC invoked an alleged LRTA board resolution and ‘recommendations’ of MRT 3 office, both of which were never published,” he added.

According to the Bayan leader, they will also question why the DOTC approved a fare hike for LRT1 when the train’s operations were already privatized in favor of Ayala and Metro Pacific.

“The privatization of the LRT1 was never explained during any of the public consultations. It is highly irregular for DOTC to grant this private concessionaire a fare hike, even without the private consortium applying for a fare hike, and even without a hearing where private operators present the basis why they deserve a fare hike,” Reyes stressed.

Once implemented, he argued that all proceeds from the LRT1 fare hike will go to the private operator, giving it an undue advantage.

Last October, the operation of the LRT1 was relinquished to the private consortium.
The fare increase is expected to take effect on January 5.

Congress has allocated P1.2 billion and P727.6 million for the rehabilitation of MRT-3 and LRT lines 1 and 2, respectively, in the P22.4-billion proposed supplemental budget for 2014. Lawmakers have also realigned P9 billion of the P53.9 billion intended for the MRT-3 buyout in the P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015 for the railway system’s repair and rehabilitation.

Abaya has said the fare hike will lead to better facilities and improved services for the MRT and LRT.

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