MANILA, Philippines – First, a severed arm. Then, a detached train car.
Given the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3)'s major glitches this week, Senator Grace Poe called on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to decide already whether there is a need to temporarily stop the operations of the MRT3 for rehabilitation to begin.
"Kailangan maglakas-loob sila, dahil magagalit ang taumbayan kasi marami talaga ang mahihirapan na walang MRT, pero ang importante ay ligtas sila; so kailangang mag-desisyon ang DOTr. Kailangan ba ninyong itigil ang pagpapatakbo ng mga tren para talagang mabusisi ninyo o mapag-aralan ninyo ang mga teknikal na bagay na magliligtas sa ating mga kababayan?" she said in an ambush interview on Thursday, November 16.
(They have to be brave enough, because Filipinos will be angry since many will suffer without the MRT, but what's important is they're safe; so the DOTr has to decide. Do you need to stop train operations so that you can study the technical aspects that will keep our fellow Filipinos safe?)
Poe led Senate hearings on MRT3 issues as chair of the Senate committee on public services. On Thursday, she said it's hard to believe that the MRT3 is "safe" as the DOTr claims it to be, given its operational glitches.
Two days after, up to 140 MRT3 passengers walked from Ayala Station to Buendia Station after a train car was detached from the train body.
"Ang DOTr, kailangan na nilang maglahad ng kanilang plano. Anong gagawin 'pag ititigil ito? Gaano kabilis ang rehabilitasyon kung saka-sakaling ititigil? Isang buwan ba? Ilang buwan? Ilang linggo?" Poe said on Thursday.
(The DOTr needs to reveal their plans. What will happen once we stop the operations? How quick will the rehabilitation be once we stop it? One month? How many months? One week?)
If the temporary closure pushes through, she asked what contingency plans will be put in place to accommodate more than 500,000 passengers who rely on the MRT3 daily.
"Ano ang gagawin niyo? Mayroon ba kayong point-to-point buses na idadagdag, at bibigyan ba ninyo ng kompensasyon na libre ang ating mga pamasahe sa mga panahon na walang pagtakbo ang MRT? Iyan ang tanong natin," she asked.
(What will you do? Will you have additional point-to-point buses? Will you compensate passengers with free rides while the MRT is not operational? Those are our questions.)
But Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Senator Gregorio Honasan II do not think temporarily stopping operations of the MRT3 is the way to go.
"Masyadong mahihirapan ang riding public basta't sinara mo. Magkakatalo sa maintenance (It will be too difficult for the riding public once you close it down. It all comes down to maintenance)," Sotto said during an interview with reporters on Thursday.
"[Phase-by-phase]. Huwag mo itigil (Don't stop it as) as in switch off. These are not easy decisions. May aangal diyan (Many will complain)…. That's the price we have to pay for errors in cumulative policy directions," Honasan added.
Senate Bill 1284 or "An Act Compelling the Government to Address the Transportation and Congestion Crisis Through the Grant of Emergency Powers to the President" is still on second reading.
Sotto said Senate might tackle the proposed measure before session adjourns in December. – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.