Labor group on call to privatize LRT-2: Did that work for MRT-3?

Ratziel San Juan - Philstar.com
Labor group on call to privatize LRT-2: Did that work for MRT-3?
Workers group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) on Oct. 9, 2019 criticized Senator Sherwin Gatchalian’s suggestion to the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) to consider the privatization and maintenance of LRT Line 2 in response to disruptions.
Light Rail Transit Authority

MANILA, Philippines — Workers group Kilusang Mayo Uno on Wednesday disputed Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian’s suggestion that privatizing Light Rail Transit Line 2 would mean better service for commuters.

Gatchalian had pointed out that LRT-2 is the only line among the three in Metro Manila that has yet to be privatized. He said that the LRT Authority should consider the line's "long-term viability."

But KMU Secretary-General Jerome Adonis told Philstar.com that privatizing the train line would not resolve the transportation crisis in the capital. 

"Is MRT any better when it was privatized?" he said.

LRT-2, which runs along five cities Metro Manila and ferries close to 200,000 passengers, temporarily halted operations after a fire broke out between Katipunan and Anonas stations.

All but three stations – Santolan, Katipunan, and Anonas – have resumed operations. Those stations will remain offline for nine months.

'Government should take control of trains'

Adonis said the MRT experience debunks the myth that privatization leads to better services and facilities.

“The government should instead take full control of our trains, integrated with a comprehensive program for efficient mass transportation that is accessible and affordable for our commuters, especially workers and students,” Adonis said.

Ayala Corporation and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation own LRT-1, while Light Rail Manila Corp. handles operations and maintenance.

Metro Rail Transit Corporation is the owner-builder of MRT-3, which the Department of Transportation operates.

“There should be more planning and integration of our mass transportation system. Once in private hands, its operations will be driven by profits instead of public interest,” Adonis said.

"Mass transportation is the government’s responsibility. It should be rendered as a public service."

In a separate statement, youth activist group Anakbayan said commuters' problems are "an issue of denationalization of public services and the prevalence of profit over the people's interest."

The group issued the statement after presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo called a challenge for him and other public officials to commute as silly.

"As I said, the daily sufferance of commuters and motorists traversing the road in going to work and returning home or going elsewhere in Metro Manila is a given," Panelo said in a text message to reporters.

"Sufferance" means "patient endurance" and "consent or sanction implied by a lack of interference or failure to enforce a prohibition," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Panelo added: "Whether you commute or drive, one is subjected to the same vexing inconvenience and delay, as well as the loss of precious time."

But Anakbayan said the Palace's statement shows how detached officials are to the transport crisis.

"They are demagnifying the country's hellish transport system to mere additional travel time when in reality, as seen through the eyes of the common people, the issue
is more than just road gridlocks, rail transit troubles, and heavy traffic—it is an issue of denationalization of public services and the prevalence of profit over the people's interest," the group said.

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