LRT, MRT fare hikes suspended!

MANILA, Philippines — Good news for the riding public, especially students: The implementation of the new fare matrix for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) will remain indefinitely suspended. During Tuesday's joint hearing of the House Committees on Transportation and Government Enterprises and Privatization, Atty. Hernando Cabrera, corporate secretary of the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), said the MRT and LRT fare hikes have been indefinitely shelved to ease the plight of the riding public who have been reeling from continued increases in the prices of oil and basic commodities. "We decided to postpone or forego the implementation (of the new fare matrix) in light of the recent increase in bus and jeepney fares and the school opening so as not to burden the parents. We have suspended it indefinitely," he told lawmakers. In February, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) decided to delay the implementation of LRT and MRT fare increases. The proposed fare hikes, which were approved by the LRTA Board, the DoTC and the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB), were supposed to be implemented last March 1. According to Cabrera, there are 500,000 people riding the MRT daily. The LRT Lines 1 and 2, on the other hand, draw 450,000 and 230,000 passengers respectively, he said. He admitted that during peak hours from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., the railway transport system is "overcrowded and overloaded." "That is why we are asking for fare increase. While some people will initially ride the buses or jeepneys because it is cheaper, they will realize that it is still cheaper and more convenient to ride the MRT and LRT and transfer back," Cabrera said. The National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) earlier disclosed that railway systems alone transport approximately 346 million people. Cabrera noted that even if they would implement fare hikes in LRT and MRT, the government would only save P3 billion. "We want to tap the private sector for efficiency. We have a difficult procurement law. That is why we cannot quickly buy spare parts when needed," he said. During the hearing, Cebu Rep. Tomas Osmeña said the government "cannot go on giving subsidy at P7 billion a year." "How many people are really benefiting from the MRT? We need roads and bridges in the countryside. Manila is not the Philippines," he said. Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, for his part, said: "The problem is not really the subsidy. The government is not spending enough for mass transportation, especially in Visayas and Mindanao. Government has failed to put its resources on this." For her part, Kathleen Miralles of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said a mass transit system requires high capital expenditure, adding that "we need to develop the commercial side of rail operation."


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