The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) headed by Secretary Jose de Jesus has assured the public that affordability will be the paramount consideration in the agency's ongoing deliberation for the inevitable fare hike at the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT).
Belying claims that new fare rates have already been proposed for the LRT Lines 1 and 2 and MRT 3, DoTC Undersecretary Dante Velasco said the agency is still balancing its act with the passengers' sense of affordability.
He said the fare hike issue will be subject to a series of public consultations and hearings so as to enable the public sector and commuter groups to help the DoTC arrive at a fair and justifiable fare rates.
"One of the considerations is the sense of affordability. It is our way of looking at the passengers' capacity to pay and balancing it with our projected figures. We are assuring the public that we have the passengers' stake in mind. After all, our President said himself that the people are his boss," he told the Manila Bulletin in a telephone interview.
Velasco said the DoTC has the whole month of August to deliberate and hold public consultations on the proposed fare hike. He said the announcement of the new fare rates can be expected by early September.
Velasco admitted that whatever increase rate will be implemented will certainly affect the passenger volume since commuters who could no longer afford the new rates would use the buses, jeepneys and taxis instead as their transport mode.
"But we are not expecting a major switch to these alternative transport services. There is no basis to worry that traffic volume will be worsened because volume of public utility vehicles is being controlled by the Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, and the Metro Manila Development Authority," he said.
He also appealed to the riding public to be considerate with the government's decision to finally increase fares on the mass transportation system, adding that the public's cooperation is needed to maintain the rail transit systems.
"The government can no longer continue subsidizing the fares. It now has to share the burden with the passengers. If we base the issue on the users' pay principle, the users who enjoy the facility will have to pay for the cost the facility needs to survive. This is just and fair," he said.
In Malacanang, President Aquino said Friday the government will likely reduce subsidies in the mass railway system in Metro Manila due to dwindling public funds.
The President said he is already studying a proposal to adjust the fares of the Metro Manila's light railways at the level of commercial buses. At present, public utility buses plying Epifanio delos Santos Ave. (EDSA) charge their passengers higher fares compared to riding the MRT along the busy highway.
"Ang laki masyado ng subsidy e sa train, wala naman tayong di ba pampuno nun (The subsidy for the trains is to big. We don't have funds to fill that up)," the President said.
"Meron kasing proposal na isabay naman at least to the level of buses na mas mura sa buses. Pero you have a premium, yung ease of traveling. Mas mabilis ito (There is a proposal to match it at least to the level of the business, which is still cheaper than the buses. But you have a premium on ease of traveling. This is much faster). So I'm still waiting for the recommendations," he added.
Aquino was sought to comment on the reported forthcoming MRT fare hikes after he attended a convention of barangay officials at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.
Asked if there will be adjustments in MRT fares, he insisted that he is still waiting for the final recommendation on the MRT project.