Rail fare hike freeze extension sought

July 3, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 233 views

CAMARINES Sur Representative LRay Villafuerte is “hoping against hope,” with barely a month to go before the scheduled rate adjustments at the three rail networks in Metro Manila, the transport officials will defer anew the fare hikes, in consideration of train riders who continue to reel from the spiraling oil and food prices.

Villafuerte appealed anew to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to suspend the fare hike plan by the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) and Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), respectively, for LRT Lines 1 and 2 (LRT-1 and LRT-2) and for MRT Line 3 (MRT-3) and ordered Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista to defer the plan .

“I am hoping against hope that, with almost one month and a half to go before train fares in Metro Manila are adjusted as scheduled, our transport officials will find it in their hearts to put back this plan anew—in the same way it was deferred last April on the President’s orders—on account of the high commodity prices that afflict our train commuters and the rest of the masa in their daily struggle to make both ends meet,” Villafuerte said.

He pointed out that officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTR), LRTA and MRTC are “pulling the cart ahead of the horse in stressing that adjusting rates is necessary for Metro rail lines to boost revenue so they can spend more on improving the riding experience for commuters, because the much better alternative is for them to first improve their train services before demanding higher fares from the riding public.”

“Sabi nila, itataas raw yan (fares) para mas lalong ma-maintain ang serbisyo sa train lines. Eh, ako naman kasi, sabi ko, sana pagandahin nyo muna bago i-increase ang pamasahe,” the solon said in a radio-TV interview.

“So palagay ko naman na puwede naman pong i-consider ito na i-defer na muna iyon at hanapan ng pondo … ang point ko lang, sana huwag nilang sasabihin na kailangan ang increase dahil matagal nang hindi nag-increase. Pagandahin muna nila ‘yung serbisyo saka na lang siguro tayo mag increase. I mean, iyan lang po ang apila natin,” he added.

“Sabi nila mag-increase August 2 … Ako naman ay umaasa sana … naga-appeal po tayo sa Pangulo, sa kay DOTr Secretary Jimmy Bautista na bigyan pa ng konsiderasyon dahil, if you will recall last April, nag-request na rin ang DOTr na i-increase pero ang ating Pangulo sinabi i-defer,”’ Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte said: “Sa August 2 pa naman, baka sakaling ma-consider pa na wag na munang i-increase. Kasi 20%-increase din yan eh, dati P1 per kilometer, ngayon magiging P1.21 na. So, kung sasabihin mo, dati P11 ang sakay, at ngayon magiging P13.29 na, so 20%-increase din yan. Hindi po biro yun.”

“Yun lang naman ang appeal natin sa national government, kay Secretary … kay Pangulo… na sana pakinggan rin naman kahit konting deferment pa kasi na-defer na po nya eh, so malaking bagay po na napakinggan nya last April, di ba? Dinefer na nya,” the solon said.

Although there has been a steady decline in headline inflation since the start of the year up to May—as pointed out last month by transportation authorities in justifying their impending rate hikes, Villafuerte said the spike in commodity prices is higher than in previous years and continues to erode the purchasing power of ordinary Filipinos.

As reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), overall inflation slowed from 6.6% in April to 6.1% last May, however, the month’s rate was still higher than the 5.4% print in May 2022.

Although the economy has been up—as likewise claimed by the transport officials in defending their planned rate adjustment, Villafuerte noted: “They seem to be forgetting that our economy is driven largely by domestic or household consumption, which means that any erosion of the people’s purchasing power puts economic growth at risk.”

In fact, the multilateral institutions like the World Bank (WB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) along with independent financial analysts have downgraded their forecasts for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expansion for the Philippines on the belief that the lingering elevated inflation is one downside to our country’s growth momentum, the lawmaker added.

“Gumaganda nga naman ang ekonomiya, pero kung iisipin mo, ang ekonomiya natin is consumption based, pag bawasan mo ang disposable income … ang income ng ordinaryong tao … hihina ang ekonomiya. Eh isa sa mga expense ng tao transportation, ‘di ba? Everyday papuntang opisina, pabalik … pag hindi nila i-increase yan, palagay ko meron silang dagdag income na pwedeng gamitin sa iba,” Villafuerte said.