No MRT, LRT fare hike welcomed
By Jelly F. Musico
MANILA (PNA) – Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto on Wednesday welcomed the assurance of Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade that no fare increase will be imposed both in the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) without “enhanced quality service.”
Tugade made the assurance in the first Senate public hearing on the bills and resolutions granting President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers to solve the traffic problems in Metro Manila and other highly-urbanized cities for the period of two years.
Asked by Recto if his department is inclined to approve the reported petition by LRT 1’s private operators if they could raise fares by 10 percent, Tugade said “any increases must be predicated on enhanced quality service.”
“Sinabihan ko na ho ang aking management that any increases on the rates sa LRT is totally not acceptable to me. Magmumukha tayong katawa-tawa sa matinding problema tapos magtataas tayo ng pamasahe,” he added.
Pressed by Recto if there are also plans to adjust fares in the MRT, Tugade replied, “Wala ho kaming planong ganyan.”
“Lalabas ho kaming katawa-tawa na magre-rate increase at yung serbisyo mo ay hindi naman maganda,” the DOTr chief said.
Tugade said that while he has not received any formal request for any rate increase in any of the three Metro elevated train lines, he has issued instructions that he will not approve such application.
“Nag-issue na ho ako ng instruksyon na hindi ko papayagan ang increases ng pamasahe,” Tugade told Recto.
Also covered by the freeze in user fees are toll roads.
Upon a questioning by Recto if any toll adjustment in pay-per-use roads is in the offing, Tugade made the assurance that it is not being considered.
“Sa toll roads hindi rin ho. Ayokong mag-increase,” Tugade said, adding that what he plans to do at the moment is to synchronize toll systems to reduce waiting time at toll gates.
He explained there are three operating systems for toll collection at present. “May sistema si Ramon Ang, ang RFID. May sistema ng Ayala, at yung sistema ni Pangilinan.”
“Meron kaming plano na i-synchronize ito para isang electronic systems monitoring na lang at yun na lang ang maghahati kung kanino iyon napasok. Pag ginawa nyo yan, our tentative pencil pushing (shows that) mababawasan yung waiting sa toll ng 10 to 15 minutes,” Tugade said.
The Transportation chief said he will also prod toll road concessionaires to add collection booths at the exits.
Recto noted that while frequency and conditions of train fare and road toll increases are provided for in the contracts these operators entered into by the government, “there is room for negotiations on how to mitigate or delay or cancel or postpone the adjustments.”
Tugade said if operators will invoke the contract, “eh di reviewhin natin yung kontrata at gamitin natin yung pakiusap, lalo kung may special power ako (to do it).”
In agreeing with Tugade, Recto said train services must first be improved before the government can agree to any increase.
“There must be visible improvements in terms of the number of coaches, the frequency of train rides, passenger comfort before any fare increase is ratified by regulators,” Recto said.
He said the three lines are receiving billions in taxpayer subsidy for 2016 “so this can leverage the government’s position.”