DOTC PLANS TO SPEND P15.7-B IN 2016 TO SOLVE MRT, RAIL SECTOR WOES
Sen. Chiz Escudero said the Department of Transportation and Communications’ (DOTC) P43.5-billion budget request for 2016 should allow it to field more trains, end long queues at MRT stations and start the long-delayed line extension projects, since almost 41 percent of the agency’s proposed spending plan is earmarked for the rail sector.
Escudero, who is former chair of the Senate Committee on Finance until he resigned on July 28 out of “delicadeza,” said that based on the DOTC request, it plans to spend some P15.7 billion to address the problems plaguing not just the MRT, but the Philippine National Railways (PNR) and the LRT, as well.
According to Escudero, it is only right to attach “measurable performance” to every peso that the DOTC is asking in taxpayers’ money to subsidize the rail operations.
“The DOTC says it will speed up transfer time in stations from 10 minutes this year to 5 minutes next year. Ang una ngang dapat itanong 10 minutes nga lang ba ang waiting time sa MRT ngayon?“ Escudero asked.
The DOTC also vowed that overloading in MRT trains would go down to 157 percent from to 171 percent. “Is this decrease in load factor doable or drawing lang? Ilang bagong train ba ang parating para masabi natin na maiibsan na ang siksikan?“ the senator asked further.
These pledges are among the MRT-related performance indicators the DOTC has spelled out in the national budget.
With these deliverables, the DOTC is asking Congress to appropriate P7.09 billion in MRT-related expenses broken down as follows: P1.96 billion for operation and maintenance; P1.5 billion for rehabilitation and capacity expansion; and P3.63 billion as subsidy for “mass transport.”
The latter would cover deficiencies in “settling prior and current years’ obligations for equity rental, maintenance fees and other obligations” in case “farebox revenues” are insufficient to cover those, Escudero said, explaining the special budget provision the DOTC wants to govern its use.
The “Senate’s strict scrutiny of rail-related appropriations should extend to other lines kasi hindi lang naman sa MRT mahaba ang pila at may aberya ang mga tren”, Escudero suggested.
One such firm is the Philippine National Railways (PNR), which performance guarantee is to provide “safe and reliable rail services for the Metro South Commuter Services,” the line running from Tutuban, Manila to Calamba, Laguna.
The government is asking P1.32 billion in operating subsidy for the PNR for 2016.
Another budgetary subsidy – to the tune of P1.42 billion – is being set aside for the Light Rail Transportation Authority (LRTA), with the promise that the agency will field one train every 3 to 4 minutes during peak hours in its Roosevelt-Baclaran Line 1 and one every 5 to 6 minutes in its Pasig-Recto Line.
“Kaya dapat itong mga pangakong ito ilagay sa tarpaulin sa bawat istasyon. Because these promises are not just made to Congress but to taxpayers who, by their payments, fund the national budget,” Escudero said.
The amount requested for LRTA is on top of the P6.75 billion “construction budget” the DOTC is requesting for various LRT extension projects, such as P1.62 billion for the LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension Project and P2.9 billion for the LRT Line 2 Extension Project.
The DOTC is seeking P43.5 billion for its 2016 spending plan. This does not include, however, budget subsidies to state corporations. /MP