The government on Saturday stood firm on its decision to increase fare rates of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT) amid threats by some groups to challenge the increase before the Supreme Court.
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte maintained that the fare hike, while a bitter pill to swallow, is needed to improve the services of the congested train lines.
Bayan Muna has said it will ask the Supreme Court to stop the fare adjustment which will take effect on January 5.
Valte said the government will only reduce the subsidy that it has been granting to the rail lines, since it cannot just do away with the incentive.
“We have to make it clear that we are not taking away the subsidy completely. We just want to reduce it so that [government]can fund programs which would also benefit our people who are residing outside Metro Manila,” she said.
“Regarding the prospective challenge that will be filed by Bayan [Muna], that will be up to the court. If we will be asked by the Supreme Court to respond, the government will respond. We will be ready to respond and wait for the court’s decision,” Valte added.
Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said they will file a petition before the Supreme Court to stop the implementation of the fare hike.
Under the new fare matrix for the MRT 3, a ride from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City will increase from P15 to P28, a train ride from Baclaran to Roosevelt will go up from P20 to P30 and the cost of a trip from Recto to Santolan will be increased from P15 to P25.
The MRT 3 fare hike has not been received well by the public because of the glitches that has marred its operations in recent months.
But Valte said these concerns will be addressed.
“The DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication) is aware of the public opinion that services should be improved. They already identified areas for improvement. The biggest concerns are safety, buying additional train coaches and fixing non-functioning escalators,” Valte said.
Also on Saturday, a commuters’ group challenged President Benigno Aquino 3rd to a public debate on the MRT-LRT fare hike, saying Aquino must defend the government’s decision to raise train fares.
The Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (Riles) Network dared Aquino to a face-off on December 29, a week before the increase takes effect.
“Since he is hell-bent on implementing the move, we dare President Aquino to a public debate on the MRT-LRT fare hike. We dare him to defend the move before the people who will be affected most by this anti-people measure,” Sammy Malunes, the group’s spokesperson, said.
The group said the debate should take place at the entrance of the Recto terminal station of the LRT-2 near the Isetann mall, at 7 a.m. on December 29, or in any place and at any time that Aquino would set.
“The arguments being put forward by the Aquino government to defend the fare hikes are unreasonable and unacceptable to Filipinos. We believe that the main reason for the move is to ensure the profits of big capitalists who want to own the train systems once these are privatized,” Malunes said.
He criticized the government’s argument that the fare hike would stop taxpayers in the Visayas and Mindanao from subsidizing the transport systems which benefit only the residents of Metro Manila and Luzon.
“This is nothing but an excuse for privatization and should be rejected. It can be invoked to privatize any and all government services. We would also like to remind the Aquino government that many contractual workers in Metro Manila come from the Visayas and Mindanao,” Malunes added.
He said Aquino has repeatedly tried to increase rail fares and should by now be ready to present his arguments in front of the public.