MANILA – Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero on Sunday said the Senate will summon Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya in its ongoing inquiry into the maintenance of Metro Rail Transit to explain the fare increase in the MRT 3 and Light Rail Transit Line 1 and 2.
”We will tackle that (fare increase) and if there is a chance, we will stop it and ask their commitment because there is no reason, financially and practically, for fare hike,” Escudero said in radio dzBB interview.
Escudero questioned the timing particularly of the MRT fare hike, saying the MRT management has yet to improve its services.
”The increase was unwarranted. Untimely because the services has not improved. They should improve first their services and if they can do that, perhaps Juan dela Cruz can accept the fare hike,” Escudero said.
Escudero also questioned the lack of public consultation before the DOTC implemented the new fare adjustment.
The administration senator said the DOTC did not even mention when the Senate tackled its proposed budget for 2015.
”They did not mention that and that’s why I’m opposing the fare hike. When they presented the budget, it was based on the old fare and the subsidy was also based on the old fare,” Escudero, chairman of the Senate finance committee, explained.
Under the DOTC budget for MRT for 2015, the Senate approved Php2-billion subsidy for the improvement of rail and signaling system and Php7 billion from unprogrammed funds for rehabilitation of MRT.
Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe supported the proposal of Escudero to ask the presence of Abaya in the next Senate hearing on the MRT.
”Of course we have to call the DOTC secretary. He is the best person who can answer,” Poe, chairperson of the Senate subcommittee on public service, said in a separate radio interview.
Poe, however, said the Senate hearing should be done after the Papal visit so as not to disrupt the preparation of the government in the much-awaited visit of Pope St. Francis from January 15 to 16.
”In deference of the Papal visit, even the DOTC, will have to focus on the safety of our countrymen and our beloved Pope himself. So after his visit, we will call public hearing,” Poe said.
Poe clarified that the Senate hearing is not intended to stop the implementation of the fare hike that started on Sunday.
”That’s the job of our concerned citizen groups which can seek the help of the court,” she said.
Poe agreed with Escudero that the MRT services should be improved first before implementing any fare increases.