‘Anti-poor’ and ‘anti-commuter’ are words that according to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan National Capital Region would best describe the recent fare hike implementation on Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines 1 and 2.

Starting today, August 2, Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) at Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) will implement a P13.29 minimum boarding fee as opposed to the previous P11 charge and distance fare of Php1 per kilometer. This also means an additional P5 will be charged for an end-to-end trip.

“Araw-araw libo-libong mga Pilipino ang gumagamit sa parehas na riles. Ang pagtaas ng pamasahe sa LRT-1 at LRT-2 ay dagdag pasakit at pabigat para sa mamamayang Pilipino,” said BAYAN NCR.

It must be noted that both Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) and Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT-2) have recorded millions of commuters since public transportation including railways were allowed to operate at full capacity given eased pandemic restrictions.

Even LRTA Administrator Atty. Hernando Cabrera has expected a ridership surge on LRT and MRT lines since the Marcos Jr. administration lifted public health emergency status thru Proclamation No. 297.

Cabrera further noted LRT-2’s ridership went down to 10,000 daily since the pandemic onslaught until it gradually recovered and reached its highest ridership peak last December 2022 at 159,000 daily.

“Ang LRT-1 ay pagmamay-ari ng pribadong kumpanya simula noong 2015. Bakit pinapayagan ng gobyerno na makapagtaas sila ng singil at makakapagkamal pa ng mas malaking tubo habang may sandamakmak na reklamo at hirap na nararanasan ang mga pasahero? Habang ang LRT-2 naman ay pag-aari ng gobyerno. May subsidiya naman na nakukuha ang LRT-2, bakit kinakailangan magtaas rin sila ng kanilang singil?” BAYAN NCR further posed a question.

Under the Aquino administration, the public-private partnership (PPP) program has been established through Executive Order No. 8 series of 2010, as amended by Executive Order No. 136 series of 2013. According to Ibon Foundation, the said program will mean greater costs for the tax-paying public and more fare hikes for commuters, while assuring guaranteed profits for Light Rail Manila owners.

In 2011, the government already had five lined up PPP projects which included the operation and maintenance contracts for Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) and Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) worth P7.7 billion and P6.3 billion, respectively; the P1.4-billion 3.68-kilometer Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) link; the P10.59-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport expressway; and the P21-billion North Luzon-South Luzon expressway link.

Three years after, in 2014, LRMC was awarded a P65-billion contract by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to operate and maintain the LRT1 under PPP in a build-transfer-operate structure (BTO).

Commission on Audit (COA) explained BTO as a contractual arrangement where the public sector contracts out the building of an infrastructure facility to a private entity, like LRT1, such that the contractor builds the facility on a turn-key basis, assuming cost overruns, delays, and specified performance risks. Once the facility is commissioned, the title is transferred to the implementing agency. The private entity however operates the facility on behalf of the implementing agency under an agreement.

As for LRMC, it noted that the LRT1 constituted the construction of the 11.7-kilometer extension of the LRT1 from Baclaran in Paranaque City to Bacoor, Cavite as stipulated in the 32-year concession agreement. This means that the private sector can impose policies like fare hikes for more than three decades since its implementation.

LRMC is 55% owned by Metro Pacific Light Rail Corp., 35% by Ayala Corporation Infrastructure Holdings Corp., and 10% by foreign-owned Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings, Inc.

“Sa kasalukuyang krisis pang-ekonomiya, hindi makatarungan ang pagtataas ng singil ng dalawang riles. Walang katiting na konsiderasyon ang dalawang riles at ang DOTr sa mga commuters. Nakaamba na rin magtaas ang Metro Rail Transit (MRT) ng kanilang singil na dadagdag muli sa hirap na dinadanas ng mamamayang Pilipino,” slammed BAYAN NCR.

In March 2014, a joint venture between Ayala Corporation and Metro Pacific was also awarded a P1.72-billion contract for the automated fare collection system of the LRT and the MRT. Both are also currently bidding for the privatization of Line 2 of LRT (LRT2) and the North-South Railway.

Meanwhile, the Marcos Jr. administration proposed a whopping 5.768 trillion for the 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP) that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted to the House of Representatives last Wednesday, August 2.

 “With the urgent need to improve our country’s public mass transport system and reduce road congestion, we have doubled the budget for the DOTr from PHP106 billion in the 2023 GAA (General Appropriations Act) to PHP214.3 billion for 2024,” he said.

Accordingly, over 76.4 per cent of the DOTr budget, or PHP163.7 billion, will be allocated to the Rail Transport program, which seeks to improve the country’s current railway systems and build new ones. This includes the development of the North-South Commuter Railway System (PHP76.3 billion); the Metro Manila Subway Project Phase I (PHP68.4 billion); LRT Line I Cavite Extension Project (PHP4.7 billion); Philippine National Railways South Long Haul Project (PHP3.1 billion); and the MRT 3 Rehabilitation Project (PHP2.9 billion).

“May kakayahan ang rehimeng Marcos Jr na magpalitaw ng P500 bilyon para sa Maharlika Investment Fund ngunit kapag sa usaping mass transportation ay walang maibigay at ipinapasa pa ang hirap sa mamamayang Pilipino,” BAYAN NCR affirmed.


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