Two days before Christmas and with thousands of Metro Manila denizens on vacation outside the metropolis, MRT riders experience a rare comfortable ride to their destinations on Tuesday, December 23. Malacañang on Monday stood firm on the government’s decision to raise fares of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) amid calls from some senators to defer the fare hike scheduled on January 4, 2015.(MNS photo)

Two days before Christmas and with thousands of Metro Manila denizens on vacation outside the metropolis, MRT riders experience a rare comfortable ride to their destinations on Tuesday, December 23. Malacañang on Monday stood firm on the government’s decision to raise fares of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) amid calls from some senators to defer the fare hike scheduled on January 4, 2015.(MNS photo)

MANILA  (Mabuhay) – Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya was a no-show at the House transportation committee’s hearing Thursday on the fare increase for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT).

According to Transportation Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla, Abaya asked to be excused from attending the hearing because he is busy with preparations for the papal visit next week.

“The secretary [is] very much involved in the preparations for the papal visit . Because of the meetings for this, he asked to be excused from the hearing,” he said.

This did not sit well with Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who said Abaya should be present at the hearing to explain the DOTC’s bases for hiking fares.

“Secretary Abaya has been all over the place in the media explaining the fare hike but he is not here to answer our questions,” he said.

Colmenares said the timing of Abaya’s absence is suspect since meetings related to the preparations for the papal visit could have been done on another day.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza said Abaya’s presence was important because he was the signatory in the documents related to the MRT and LRT’s operations, such as the concession agreement the government signed with MRT Corporation, the private operator of the MRT-3.

Aside from Lotilla, present at the hearing were Transportation Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, MRT-3 officer in charge Renato San Jose and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) administrator Honorito Chaneco.

Representatives of commuter groups opposed to the fare hike also attended the probe, which was held while Congress was in recess.

The P1 increase in the base fare and fare per additional kilometer for the MRT and LRT was implemented Sunday. (MNS)