• Lawmakers call for probe of onerous MRT-LRT deals

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    Two women lawmakers urged the House of Representatives on Thursday to investigate the “onerous” contracts entered into by the Philippine government to bankroll Metro Manila’s commuter train systems.

    Gabriel Women’s Party Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus filed House Resolution 137 asking the House Committee on Transportation to conduct an inquiry on the foreign loans secured by the government as the P10-fare hike is about to get the go-ahead from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

    They said that the commuters should not bear the fare hike burden and the costly Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit deals (LRT).

    “We filed this resolution to protect the riding public from shouldering the real cost factors passed on by the Aquino administration, which are the accumulating loan burdens, and the overpriced rate of return set for the Build, Lease, and Transfer (BLT) agreement for the LRT line extensions and operations,” de Jesus explained.

    The 25-year contract with the private firms prevented the government from negotiating the “onerous” 15-percent rate of return, the lawmaker said, citing a study conducted by the inter-agency committee composed by the Palace, Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management, and National Economic and Development Authority.

    “Even the DOTC and the Light Railway Train Administration acknowledge that tax subsidies are not financing train operations, but are used to pay the debt servicing,” Ilagan said. “Clearly we need to expose the loan provisions to the public even before the government proposes to hike fares.”

    The Gabriela solons said it is important for Congress to listen to consumer complaints because the December hearings at the DOTC presented the fare hike without really accommodating the people’s sentiments.

    Since 1998, the government has been saddled with loans from the Export-Import Bank of Japan, Sumitomo Bank, and other Japanese and Czech financiers. The latest Japanese loan costs P18.56 billion for line extensions to the north and south lines.

    There are also local financiers, including the Bank of the Philippine Islands, which is set to fund the contract MRT Corp. conglomerate.

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