Romulo pushes for public consultations on proposed MRT fare hike

MANILA — warning that a sudden and excessive increase could boomerang and drive commuters to find other ways of going around, House Deputy Majority Leader Roman Romulo has urged the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to conduct adequate public consultations on any upward adjustment in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) fare.

“The public consultations should be broad and exhaustive, to ascertain the exact amount that is least burdensome to and most bearable by commuters,” said Romulo, who represents the lone district of Pasig City in Congress.

The DOTC earlier said it may raise the MRT fare “by around P25” or 66 percent starting next month.

“Clearly, there is risk that a large number of commuters will cease taking the MRT, and if this happens, the purpose of the fare increment will be defeated,” Romulo said.

“If some 500,000 commuters now take the MRT every day at P15 per trip, and the number drops to 250,000 once the fare is doubled to P30, then the effect will be revenue-neutral. Fare revenues will stay the same, with no net gain or decrease,” he pointed out.

“Thus, the DOTC will have achieved nothing, except to make life more difficult for the ordinary commuter who now has to either pay double, or take a less efficient and more tiresome way to work or school, and get back home,” he added.

The Department of Budget and Management earlier said that some P7.3 billion has been earmarked in the proposed General Appropriation Act of 2011 as “fare subsidy” to MRT riders at a rate of P47.77 each.

The amount is P2.2 billion or 43 percent greater than the State’s P5.1 billion “fare subsidy” to MRT commuters this year.

Romulo lamented the DOTC’s plan to raise the MRT fare despite the subsidy.

Besides the P7.3 billion fare subsidy, government is coughing up another P1 billion to cover the MRT’s operating and maintenance costs in 2011, up 55 percent from this year’s P645 million.

The MRT was built by a private consortium on an assured 15 percent annual rate of return, plus debt obligations that are ultimately guaranteed by the State.

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