Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto today welcomed government’s assurance that any hike in LRT 1 or MRT fares will only come after improvements in service that will be felt by train riders.
The pledge was made by Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arturo Tugade in today’s hearing called by the Senate Public Services Committee on bills granting President Duterte emergency powers to solve the traffic mess in Metro Manila and other urban cities.
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.”
Earlier the DOTr announced it may request a delay in the implementation of a fare hike for the LRT 1 that private operator Light Rail Manila Corp. said was due this month.
LRT 1 operations were privatized in line with the P65-billion LRT 1 Cavite extension public-private partnership project.
The last time a fare increase took effect for LRT 1 was in January 2015.