“It has been six months since the Aquino government imposed the fare hikes, yet the public is seeing a deterioration, not improvement, in the train systems’ services.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – In the aftermath of a collision between two trains of Light Rail Transit 1 Saturday morning, May 23, the commuters’ group Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (RILES) Network blamed the trains system’s poor maintenance as the real cause of the accident. The group blasted as lies the reason given by the train’s spokesman.
Lawyer Hernando Cabrera, spokesman of Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), claimed that a power fluctuation disrupted communications between the trains resulting in the collision.
“Any LRT worker can tell you that power fluctuations should not cause a collision of trains because the workers can make adjustments when there are power disruptions – as long as the trains are maintained well,” Sammy Malunes, RILES spokesperson who worked for years in LRT, said. But the money for the train maintenance was not being spent where it should be spent, he added.
RILES said APT Global, the train’s private contractor for maintenance, “is merely pocketing the people’s money and not doing much by way of maintenance.”
As a result, the commuters’ group traces the cause of other accidents involving the train system to its poor maintenance. “Incidents like these force us to confront the problem with the country’s train systems,” Malunes said.
The train collision occurred a week into the sixth month of the protested fare hikes in LRT and MRT. Along with the RILES Network, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and various other groups have challenged the hike saying the train systems’ fare box ratio shows it could actually finance its operations without the hike and that in truth, the fare hike will only add to the profits of private groups doing business in the trains systems. RILES and Bayan have a pending petition with the Supreme Court against the fare hike.
“It has been six months since the Aquino government imposed the fare hikes, yet the public is seeing a deterioration, not improvement, in the train systems’ services,” Malunes said.
Preventable, if only
For the continuing deterioration of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 and the Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT1), Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate put the onus on the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).
Aside from the train collision in LRT, on the same day, the MRT was reduced to seven working trains resulting in horrendous queues, the Makabayan lawmakers said. They described these as “just two of the most recent bungles of the DOTC that commuters have to endure every day.”
“The LRT accident along with the MRT derailment last year is deplorable for the simple fact that it could have been prevented with the proper maintenance of the trains,” Colmenares said in a statement. He warned the DOTC to act now and not wait for a fatal accident before doing so.
Colmenares demanded accountability of the DOTC on these problems plaguing the train system. “What we have been saying these past months has come true and we want the DOTC and the Operations and Maintenance contractor to be held accountable,” the progressive lawmaker said.
At a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation, Colmenares had urged his fellow lawmakers to see and examine all contracts involving the MRT and LRT. He said, “it seems we are being duped and short-changed. It is always the commuters who suffer because of inept services while billions of pesos are being paid from the national coffers to the MRT contractors.”
Zarate cited the amounts of public funds allotted for MRT and LRT that, he said, seems to be going to waste because of the “perennial bungles” of DOTC officials and the MRT/LRT management.
These amounts include “the 2015 and the supplemental budget provided for MRT and LRT of at least P11.11 billion; for LRT1 North Extension (Common Station), P770 million; for the LRT2 West Extension, P200 million; for the MRT3 Rehabilitation and Capacity Expansion, P2.57 billion; for the Repair/Rehabilitation of LRT Lines 1 and 2, P978 million; for LRT 1 and 2 Rehabilitation (Supplemental Budget), P978 million; and the Mass Transport Subsidy, P4.66 billion.”