Commuters to Coloma: Why not take the bus yourself?
MANILA, Philippines – Why not take the bus or other forms of public transportation? Then you'll know.
This was the challenge on Friday, April 11, that a commuters group posed to Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr and other government officials a day after Coloma tried to downplay complaints about the persistent long lines at Metro Rail Transit (MRT) stations.
"'Yung MRT lang ba ang puwedeng sakyan doon sa mga rutang dinadaanan nito? Baka naman puwedeng matuklasan 'yung iba pang mga options?" Coloma said in a press briefing on Thursday, as quoted in GMA Network report.
(Is the MRT the only means of transportation along that route? Can't commuters find other options?)
"We dare Secretary Sonny Coloma, and the rest of the Aquino Cabinet, to take the daily commute from their homes to their offices," said the group Train Riders' Network (TREN) through its spokesperson Vincent Sudaria.
In recent weeks, MRT 3 commuters have brought to social media their complaints about the extremely long queues along MRT 3 stations.
The train runs along EDSA, from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City. It has 13 stations.
At present, MRT 3 carries around 560,000 passengers on a daily basis, almost doubling its original design capacity of 320,000.
To address this problem, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has temporarily extended the operating hours of the train line starting in March. The Aquino government also plans to purchase more train coaches to ease traffic, but the bidding has been marred by allegations of extortion initially involving the President's sister and later the sister of MRT general manager Al Vitangcol III.
MMDA to blame too
According to Sudaria, while public servants can turn up late for work without penalty, ordinary students and employees do not enjoy the same privilege.
In a phone interview with Rappler, Sudaria the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and government's negligence of the transport sector are also to blame for the state of commuting in Manila.
"We are calling for a long-term solution. We demand for the improvement of the services by the government and not [put the burdern] on the people," Sudaria added.
He cited as an example of the poor service the the failure of the MRT service to send trains to stations every 5 minutes.
Realizing the backlash of his statement, Coloma apologized on Friday that his suggestion for commuters to look for alternatives to the MRT was misunderstood. He said he had taken public transportation every now then, implying that he knew the difficulties of commuting.
Malacañang has been responding to questions on the inefficiencies of the MRT system also to shield Vitangcol from calls to resign.
The Aquino administration has prepared several projects in the pipeline to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila. This includes the construction of MRT-7, purchasing of new train coaches, and the extension of LRT-1. – with reports from Aimee Cando and Raisa Serafica/Rappler.com