DOTC: MRT fare could increase by P10 in 2006
- Sandy Araneta () - October 21, 2005 - 12:00am
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) yesterday said the government may raise the fares of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) by as much as P10 by the second quarter of next year if it continues to experience difficulty in operations as a result of the continuous increase of oil products.

"We have been asking for this since 2003. We are also going to study the implications of the expanded value added tax (EVAT) on operations not just on the MRT,  but also LRT 1 and 2 and the Philippine National Railways. But as much as possible, if we can avoid the increase, we will," DOTC Undersecretary Guiling Mamodiong said.

He noted that the MRT has always been subsidized by the government.

"The income of the MRT is not really enough to pay for the rental and maintenance of the MRT. We are still getting budget from the national government. We are paying a monthly equity rental of $3.3 million for the MRT," Mamodiong explained.

He said for the PNR, the subsidy of national government is P170 million a year. He said the PNR needs a minimum subsidy of P350 million a year.

President Arroyo has told the DOTC that if the government can subsidize, it will.  

"If the increase is not possible, then the government will continue to subsidize us and perhaps portions of the EVAT collections may go to the subsidy," he said.

The DOTC official assured the public that the MRT and LRT will not impose any type of increases in their fares for this year.

Mamodiong said, however, they would be asking for an immediate review during the second quarter of next year for a possible granting of a fare increase.

Roberto Lastimoso, general manager of MRT, earlier appealed to the President to approve the proposed P10 increase in fares to keep the trains running.

Lastimoso said a fare increase was essential to the survival of the debt-ridden mass transport system.The MRT owes accumulated debts of P500 million to its Japanese maintenance contractor Sumitomo.

He also said inadequate maintenance was the reason for the frequent breakdowns.

Trains of the MRT service some 460,000 passengers daily with 20 trains traveling at peak hours and 12 at non-peak hours.

Officials of the MRT3 earlier said it would open its bidding for a $100-million capacity expansion project for the acquisition of 48 additional cars.

The increase in coaches is expected to cure the MRT’s perennial overcapacity problem, which often results in power fluctuation and delays of train trips.

Lastimoso earlier said ridership is expected to reach 600,000 by 2006.

The MRT has been suffering technical and mechanical problems lately due to the overcrowding of trains. It experiences an average of three service interruptions monthly, but MRT officials said it affects less than 0.01percent  of its passengers.

Meanwhile, the first batch of new MRT electronic fare cards will have no picture of President Arroyo or any government official, the DOTC said yesterday.

The first batch would consist of about 800,000 cards, the cost of which was paid by the government, Transportation Undersecretary Guiling Mamodiong said.

Only the logos of the DOTC and the MRT Corp. appear on the cards.

Mamodiong, however, said that another batch of 500,000 MRT cards, the production cost of which was sponsored by a multinational company, would bear the face of the President along with the logos of the DOTC and the MRTC.

This would bring the total number of new MRT cards to 1.3 million.

The first batch of 800,000 cards has arrived and is being kept at a Bureau of Customs (BOC) warehouse, Mamodiong said.

It will be recalled that the MRT cards became the center of controversy after management decided to "re-use" the old e-cards that had the photo of former President Estrada.

Malacañang, through Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, ordered the MRTC to recall the "Erap cards" despite a blatant shortage of official fare cards.

Mamodiong said they expect the cards to be used next week as tests are being conducted to ensure their compatibility with machines at the stations.

Some 1,000 sample MRT cards with the photo of Mrs. Arroyo were sent to the DOTC for similar tests.

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