The planned fare increase in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) can be aborted if the two agencies will restructure their operational contracts, Senator Chiz Escudero said.

Escudero, who has been opposing the proposed train fare increase, said there are a lot of existing options that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) can explore to address the huge subsidy it continuously shoulders for the rail transport systems.

“As I have always said, raising fares should be the last option especially at this time. Yes, we need to look for viable measures to address the deficits faced by the two agencies. It is a challenge, but the bigger challenge for now is to restructure the whole operations and contracts to create benefits for the riding public,” Escudero pointed out.

The senator has been pushing the government to collect its share from non-rail revenues of the LRT and MRT. He said revenue sharing derived from the advertisements and lease operations of the MRT Development Corporation (MRTDevCo) and the LRTA should be realized between the government and the two agencies.

He said MRTDevCo has been collecting and receiving income from the ads and lease operations, but the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC), which operates the MRT, failed to settle its outstanding debt to the government now running into billions of pesos.

Early this year, Escudero had asked the LRT and MRT administrators to submit to his office a full accounting of their revenue sharing from advertisements and lease operations. The two agencies have yet to comply.

“In other rails in the worlds, non-rail revenues are actually used to supplement the income of the railway system itself so it can subsidize lower rates to commuters,” he explained.

The senator said the government should get its rightful share from these non-rail revenues so that the country can implement what all rails in the world are doing: tap non-rail revenues to subsidize the fares.

As this develops, the senator cautioned the DOTC and the Land Transportation Franchise Regulatory Board (LTFRB) against plans to sanction those who took part in the transport strike the other day because this might infringe on their right to free expression and organization.

“Such retaliatory action is punitive and reactionary especially given the fact that valid issues were raised by the protesters as shown by the creation by the DOTC of a task force to look into possible collusion and overpricing between and among oil companies,” Escudero said.

Since yesterday the (LTFRB) has started drawing up a list of transport operators who took part in the strike.

LTFRB chairman Jaime Jacob said they are preparing to charge and penalize participants for violating their franchise.