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Anakbayan admonishes LRTA: It’s not about number of LRT riders, it’s about providing service to them

September 3, 2010

Youth group Anakbayan slammed the Light Railway Transit Administration today for justifying its proposed fare hike by saying previous declines in ridership were ‘only temporary’.

“They are missing the point of the widespread opposition to the LRT and MRT fare hikes. Any mass transportation system has benefits to society which cannot be measured simply by how much money it is making or losing” said Anakbayan spokesperson Charisse Bañez.

In a recent interview, an official of the Light Railway Transit Authority (LRTA) claimed that while there were declines in the number of LRT passengers during previous hikes, these were only temporary since the number of riders would return to the pre-hike level after six months.

The three light rail systems spanning the National Capital Region (MRT, or Metro Rail Transit, and LRT, or Light Railway Transit) are planning fare hikes this month. The LRT, which presently charges a maximum of P15 per ride, is looking to hike their fares to as much as P40.

Bañez cited a study by the U.S Federal Geographic Data Committee (http://www.fgdc.gov/policyandplanning/newspbp/EconomicJustification_ROI-CBA-Tutorial_v2_052809_FinalVersa.pdf) which said that ‘Not all government functions are required to have a positive rate of return as they are in the business world. Government is required to provide certain services to the public, and so is more tolerant of low ROI’.

“It is possibly true that many LRT and MRT patrons will continue to use the two railways even after a fare hike. In exchange however, the already-meager wages of workers and students’ allowances will take a deep cut” added the youth leader.

Assuming that a rider uses the LRT both for going to school/work and going home, the fare hike will result in an increase in daily expenses of as much as P50 a day. This amount is equal to 12.37% of what a minimum-wage earner in the National Capital Region earns (P404).

Issue of misallocated funds

The youth leader meanwhile blasted the Aquino administration for claiming a ‘lack of nat’l funds’ as the justification for the hikes, saying “There is enough money to go around, they are just spending on the wrong things”.

According to a report by the IBON Foundation, the proposed gov’t debt interest allocation for 2011 is P357 billion, the biggest in the nation’s history. Military spending is also set to increase to P104.7 billion next year. Meanwhile, pork barrel funds are set to more than double from this year’s amount, or from P10.9 billion to P24.8 billion.

She said “The P1 billion which the LRTA hopes to earn from the fare hike is but a drop when compared to the sums Noynoy will devote to interest payments and defense”.

Bañez added “Just like his incompetent handling of the Aug. 23 hostage crisis which resulted in nationwide shame, Aquino’s incompetent budgeting and prioritization skills will bring more burdens to millions of Filipinos”.

She reiterated Anakbayan’s long-standing demand for the government to rechannel funds from debt payments and the military to social services such as education and subsidies to the MRT and LRT.

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