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Senators push probe of MRT-3 operations, PH public transport

MANILA, Philippines – Senators want answers to the latest mishap suffered by passengers of the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3), and an assessment of the state of the country's public and mass transport system.

Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara filed Senate Resolution 839 on Thursday, August 14, directing the appropriate committee to investigate, in aid of legislation, the recent derailing of the MRT-3 train. The investigation will also look into the current state of the public and mass transport system in the country.

"The litany of incidents highlights the need to look into the operation-worthiness of the MRT to ensure the safety and welfare of riding public that bear daily long cues just to ply through the metro," said Angara, who noted other MRT-3 mishaps in the past.

He said the probe should also include "all existing and planned inter-city mass transit systems in Metro Manila and the country in the context of establishing a comprehensive, integrated, coordinated, environment-friendly, sustainable and long-term transport network."

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III has also called for a “deeper probe” on the circumstances surrounding the MRT-3 train derailing train that injured 36 passengers.

"Why is this happening? What must be done? Let’s probe the existing maintenance contract of MRT 3, and everything else will follow," said Pimentel, who is set to file a resolution also calling for a probe on the incident.

On Wednesday, August 13, one of the MRT-3’s train derailed and bulldozed safety barriers of the Taft station in Pasay city, injuring at least 36 injured passengers.

The MRT-3, which traverses EDSA, is being pushed to its limits. It has a “designed capacity” of 360,000 passengers a day and “crush capacity” of 500,000 passengers a day, but in reality, the line handles over 580,000 passengers a day.

 

Pimentel blamed the poor maintenance of MRT 3 and cited “urgent concerns” about its integrity to protect the riding public.

He said that the “failure” of MRT management to update its maintenance service has forced it go on a month-to-month procurement of capital spares and consumables. Pimentel alleged that this was due to the "indecisiveness" of the MRT management to award the maintenance contract over the last 3 years.

'Risky' public transport unacceptable

Another lawmaker, Senator Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, has also called on the government to investigate the MRT 3 mishap.

“It is not acceptable that one of our main public transport systems has been at risk,” said Aquino,  a member of the ruling Liberal Party and a first cousin of President Benigno Aquino III.

Another newbie lawmaker, Senator Grace Poe, has a filed a bill seeking the creating of the “National Transportation Safety Board” that would probe air, road, and sea accidents.

In a statement, Poe said such a board was needed “due to high incidence of transportation-related accidents not to mention the low quality of transport service, high operation costs and inefficient transit system.”

The board would also “address the root cause of this disturbing trend and manage solutions to ensure the safety of commuters,” she said.

The proposed board will be composed of a chairman with the rank of Cabinet Secretary, as well as representatives from the private sector, and public transport providers.

‘Keep commuters alive’

National Youth Commission chairperson Undersecretary Gio Tingson called on the DOTC and MRT-3 to improve the conditions of the train line and ensure the safety of its riders.

“The DOTC wants as many people to get to school and to work on time. But we also want them to get there alive,” he said in a statement.

Tingson said public transport was one of the “most visible and tangible” ways the youth judges government performance.

“It’s not just about looking good to young people, but actually making them feel the benefits of a good government,” said Tingson.

 

Gov't probe

In Malacañang, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said the probe being conducted by transportation officials on the incident is intended to ensure the safety of MRT-3 users.

Asked who can be held liable for the train derailing, Coloma said in a news briefing on Thursday, "That is the objective of the ongoing investigation."

The government began an internal probe on the incident, conducted by MRT-3 management as supervised by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and a parallel investigation by the national police.

Based on initial data, the derailing was caused by a problem during the train’s “coupling” procedure. One of the MRT-3’s trains – the one that eventually derailed – has encountered problems and was stalled between the Magallanes and Taft stations.

Following protocol, another train was called down to “couple” and push the stalled train forward. On its way to the Taft station, the two trains “uncoupled” and with the stalled train’s breaks turned off, it speed up, destroying the Taft station’s barriers.

DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, speaking to reporters hours after the incident, assured commuters the line was still safe. The “uncoupling” was unlikely to have been caused by a lapse in maintenance, he said.

“Hindi kami mag-ooperate kung hindi po ligtas ang MRT-3. So wala po dapat ipangamba ang mga sumasakay (We won’t operate if the MRT-3 is not safe. Our commuters have no reason to worry),” said Abaya. – with reports from Natashya Gutierrez/Rappler.com

 

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