By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz

FRIDAY COMMUTE. Passengers queue at the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) platform inside the Quezon Avenue station in Quezon City on Friday (Feb. 17, 2023). During a public hearing on the proposed train fare hike, rail concessionaires argued that approving a fare hike for Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT1), Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT-2), and the MRT-3 would lessen government funds used to subsidize fares in these rail services. (PNA photo by Ben Briones)

MANILA – The proposed fare hike for the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1), the Light Rail Transit Line 2 (LRT-2), and the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) will decrease the amount of subsidy provided by the government, train concessionaires said Friday.

During a public hearing on the fare increase petition led by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Friday, representatives from the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), the MRT-3, and the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) argued that fare hikes for these rail services would also decrease the fare deficit or loss.

The LRMC and LRTA petitioned for a PHP2.50 fare increase at the LRT-1 and LRT-2, respectively, while the MRT-3 is looking for a PHP3 to PHP4 fare hike.

“LRT-1 is the cheapest mode of mass public transportation. We are even cheaper than jeepneys. In comparison to other Asian countries, we have the lowest fares,” said LRMC representative Jhimmy Santiago.

If their requested fare hike is disapproved, Santiago said the fare deficit, or the difference between the cost and revenue of the rail service, could reach up to PHP5.7 billion due to increased operational costs.

He noted that the last fare increase at the LRT-1 was back in 2015.

In a presentation, the LRT-2 said about 51 percent of the break-even cost of transporting a single passenger is subsidized, with the fare hike aiming to decrease the subsidy to 46 percent.

On the other hand, groups representing commuters and the marginalized criticized the proposed fare increase and said there are no plans to reduce government subsidies especially since the 2023 budget has already been approved.

“As far as we know, Congress already appropriated for this year. We didn’t hear a directive from Congress to decrease the subsidy, so why the hike?” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

Infrawatch PH convenor Terry Ridon added fare hikes should only happen if the government will no longer subsidize their service.

Representatives of the Kabataan party list, Anakbayan, and industrial workers said the effects of a fare hike adversely affect all commuters, especially students as face-to-face classes have resumed.

They argued that increasing government subsidies should instead be the solution for the fare deficit to avoid passing additional costs to commuters. (PNA)