MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Transportation officials said operations of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 will continue amid safety concerns following a train detachment incident and an accident involving the MRT3 this week.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said in a statement on Friday, November 17, that the MRT3 continues to be “safe” for passengers.
"Basta sa pagsisikap at kasiguruhan ng technical team na ligtas pa rin ang pagsakay sa MRT, tuloy pa rin ang biyahe (The services will still continue, for as long as the technical team continues to make sure that it is safe to ride the MRT),” Tugade said.
He added in Filipino that “the option is still there to temporarily stop the operation if this is deemed necessary.”
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said in a statement that transportation officials had considered the option since the first quarter of 2017 but they also took into account the "500,000 commuters that rely on the MRT-3 system daily."
Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, had earlier raised the question of temporarily suspending MRT3 operations to give way to a comprehensive maintenance and safety check after two incidents that happened this week, just days apart.
On Tuesday, November 14, MRT3 rider Angeline Fernando fell on the rail tracks after she fainted, and did not help fast enough to bring her to safety. She lost her right arm in the process, though it was successfully reattached a day later.
The DOTr said on Friday that the initial investigation showed that the Messma Card of the decoupled train was missing. "The Messma Card functions like a black box that records all applied interventions," it explained.
It cited MRT-3 Safety Chief Technician Ruel Jose, who led the initial investigation, who said the coupler of the train could only be detached through "human intervention."
"We ask: What is the motive? Who has the capability of removing the black box? Was this an attempt to cover up a mistake on the operation of Train No. 5? Or was there an effort to sabotage the entire operation?" the DOTr said.
The DOTr also reiterated its assurance to the public that it is doing its best to keep the train line running smoothly.
"We assure the public that the maintenance team is doing all it can, and working overtime to ensure the safety of the entire system. In fact, since the MRT-3 was put under internal management, fewer unloading incidents have been recorded and more number of trains are being rolled out consistently," it said.
Barely an hour after the DOTr issued the statement, the MRT3 suffered yet another glitch.