Sunday, February 20, 2011

Health group opposes MRT/LRT fare hike

The group Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) today urged the people to unite and strongly oppose plans by the Aquino government to raise fares in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) systems by March 1, 2011. This increase will push through despite massive opposition from various sectors during “public consultations” with government officials.

“Is the concern of the Aquino administration for the plight of the poor mere rhetoric? The MRT/LRT fare hike plan seems to say so,” Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD secretary general said. “This fare is on top of other increases in prices of petroleum products and basic services like electricity, and will be a tremendous addition to the daily costs of living. The heaviest burden will be on daily wage earners who barely get the minimum wage but have to go to work every day.”

According to HEAD, the MRT and LRT have a combined average of about a million riders per day. Aside from students, most of these riders are employees and blue collar workers who suffer the daily grind of these trips in order to make ends meet. That is why in many countries, essential social services like mass public transport systems necessarily require government subsidies and are not meant to be profitable.

“However, the fare hike is actually meant to showcase the profitability of the mass rail transport systems so as to attractive more potential buyers,” added Dr. Rivera. “The fare hike is actually a step in Aquino’s policy of greater privatization.”

“Because of this privatization policy, public infrastructures like the MRT and LRT operate to gain profit and not to provide public service to the public. Worse, the bulk of so-called losses being shouldered by the government are actually payments for guaranteed profits in the form of ‘equity rental payments’, and for the loans incurred by the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) when it built the MRT under a 25-year ‘build-lease-transfer’ (BLT) scheme in 1997. The BLT contract guaranteed the consortium a 15% rate of profit.”

“In this regard, the government of PNoy is no different from past regimes. It makes public utilities milking cow for the profiteering of private companies. It puts the economic burden of neoliberal policies imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on those who are already suffering much: the poor.”

HEAD insists that instead of raising MRT/LRT fares, the Aquino regime should review the lopsided BOT/BLT contract and rescind it with the public welfare in mind.

“In light of the current economic crisis and already difficult social conditions, it is unacceptable for the Aquino regime to sell off the few remaining state assets at the expense of the people he vowed to serve.” Dr. Rivera concluded. The health group urged Filipinos to vigorously oppose the unjustifiable MRT/LRT fare hike plan and make the Aquino administration accountable for its anti-people, pro-big business measures.

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Reference :
Dr. Geneve Rivera, Secretary-General