The government must penalize the private contractors who messed up the operation of the MRT system instead of running after the meager income of workers who use the metro rail system regularly.
Labor groups under the coalition Nagkaisa! made this call as they kicked off the first working day of the year with protest actions against the MRT and LRT fare hike implemented by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) last Sunday.
Philippine Airlines Employees Association (PALEA) President and Partido Manggagawa (PM) Vice Chair Gerry Rivera, who led the protest action today at the MRT-Pasay Taft station said, “Liabilities borne out of an onerous contract should not be passed on to consumers penalizing them in effect as in the case of the Build-Lease-Transfer (BLT) contract with the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) that built the MRT3 in 1997.”
He added that an ordinary worker who use the MRT will have to shell out at least P8,000 to cover the rate increase of 87% (from P15-P28) in one year. Total annual cost of the adjusted MRT rate will be at least P17,000.
Rivera lamented further that instead of penalizing the private concessionaires for messing up with its contract to efficiently operate and maintain the system, “the government is rewarding them with steady flow of income from the fare hike shouldered by lowly-paid workers.”
On his part, Josua Mata, Secretary General of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) who led the protest action together with Public Services Labor Conferederation (PSLINK), PM and other members of Nagkaisa! at MRT’s North Avenue station, said the government should finally rescind the contract and take over the operation of the entire system so that the concept of ‘subsidy’ does not become a misnomer anymore for the take-or-pay contract.
Mata argued, “When the government takes money from commuters through a fare hike and transfers that money to fraudulent hands of private companies, that is not subsidy. That's malady.”
He noted that the fare hike is not meant for service upgrade but for debt payments to a private concessionaire.
The Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) which led the protest action at MRT-Cubao station likewise believes that the fare hike is the bitter fruit of a failed privatization program of the country’s mass transport system.
Nagkaisa! vowed to conduct more protest actions this month against the fare hike.