PNOY has a twisted way of ushering in 2015 – the fifth and last full year of his administration. His idea of good tidings for the new year is slapping ordinary Filipino commuters with a fare hike.
With the 50 to 87 percent increase in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) fares taking effect two days ago, many Filipinos are now being forced to shell out more money to go to work or to school, courtesy of PNoy’s administration.
Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary (and Liberal Party stalwart) Jun Abaya’s announcement on December 20, 2014 that both the MRT and LRT would be implementing a P11-base fare plus an additional one peso per kilometer starting last Sunday was a tasteless (and painful) Christmas gift.
An MRT trip from North Avenue to Taft, for instance, now costs P28, from the previous fare of P15. A single journey LRT-1 trip from Roosevelt to Baclaran which previously cost P20 now costs P30. Meanwhile, a single journey LRT-2 trip from Recto to Santolan now costs P25 from P15.
The fare hike will definitely impact the less privileged sector of our society since the bulk of LRT and MRT riders are ordinary workers, employees and students.
But according to Abaya, the fare increase is necessary to improve the poor state of the railway system. This, of course, is a big, fat lie.
The additional revenue from the estimated P1-billion additional income that the DOTC will collect from the fare hike will not be used to upgrade or improve the trains but will go to an escrow account set up by the Aquino government so it could pay Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC)’s guaranteed 15 percent annual return on investment (ROI), as stipulated in the 1997 PPP contract.
In effect, PNoy is passing on to ordinary Filipino commuters, the burden of paying off the obligation which his government ought to be shouldering in the first place. And he has the temerity to call us his “bosses?”
Why is PNoy and his close friend and ally, Jun Abaya so bullheaded in settling the multimillion-peso money claims of MRTC, knowing fully well that the PPP contract is grossly one-sided in favor of the private concessionaire – and manifestly disadvantageous to the government and the commuting public?
Did MRTC make certain commitments to PNoy and Abaya in exchange for the prompt settlement of its money claims?
What PNoy and Abaya ought to do is to find ways to terminate the PPP contract for the failure of the private concessionaire to do what it was supposed to do in the first place (i.e. to properly maintain and operate the rail transit). At the very least, they should re-negotiate the terms of the PPP contract in order to remove highly questionable provisions like MRTC’s guaranteed 15 percent income.
Obviously, however, PNoy and his cohorts don’t give a hoot about what LRT and MRT riders think.
And as if to taunt critics of the fare hike, Malacañang said last week that “only a temporary restraining order [TRO] from the Supreme Court can stop the DOTC from implementing the fare increase in the LRT/MRT commuter train system.”
What’s more infuriating though is the treacherous and underhanded manner the fare hike was rammed through by the Aquino government while most folks weren’t looking.
For one, it was announced the weekend before Christmas when many of our countrymen had left for the provinces or were too busy preparing for their own celebrations to pay attention or react to the fare increase broadcast.
Abaya’s announcement of the rate increase also came while Congress was in recess thus ensuring that opposition lawmakers could not conduct any investigation or hearing to question it.
Not coincidentally, the announcement as well as the date of effectivity of the fare hike both fell on a weekend when the courts were closed and no temporary restraining order could ever be issued. In fact, if our memory serves us right, this is the first time a fare hike of any sort was made effective on a Sunday.
From our perspective, the LRT-MRT fare hike amounts to legalized extortion, plain and simple. Filipino commuters are being coerced to pay more without the DOTC conducting the public hearing required by law and without any commensurate improvement in the quality of the rail transit service.
We recall that during his inaugural speech, PNoy said that he knew and felt the problems of ordinary citizens, promising Filipinos that his administration “will not be the cause of [their]suffering or hardship.”
So, apparently PNoy was right when he said in his New Year’s message for 2105 that a “promising future” awaits every Filipino. It means we should expect more empty promises from his administration in the future.