THE Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is asking Congress for a higher budget allocation for the glitch-ridden Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 for 2016 despite its perceived failure to deliver better service to its train riders.
The DOTC, headed by Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, on its “promissory note” attached to its budget proposal for 2015 vowed to lessen service disruptions or what it called “passenger unloading incidents” and try to limit them to under 300 for the entire 2015 or not more than four cases per week.
But based on MRT 3 data provided to Congress, passenger unloading incidents from January to May this year is already at 162, while car-train availability during peak hours is only 13 trains.
The agency was then asking Congress for P6.6 billion for MRT 3 related expenses– P1.92 billion for “operation and maintenance” and P4.66 billion as “subsidy for MRT 3.”
Senator Francis Escudero, former chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said for 2016, the DOTC is asking P43.5 billion, of which P7.09 billion will be allotted to MRT 3–P1.96 billion for operation and maintenance; P1.5 billion for rehabilitation and capacity expansion; and P3.63 billion as subsidy for “mass transport.”
Escudero explained that the subsidy for “mass transport” allocation would cover deficiencies in “settling prior and current years’ obligations for equity rental, maintenance fees and others obligations” in case “farebox revenues” are insufficient to cover those.
The DOTC, in exchange for the amount it is asking Congress, once again promised to speed up transfer time in stations from 10 minutes this year to 5 minutes and reduce train overloading from 171 percent to 157 percent next year.
“[Is the current waiting time at MRT 3 only ten minutes? How many new trains are we expecting to arrive to say that we can ease congestion in MRT 3]?“ Escudero asked.
At the same time, he pointed out that the Senate’s strict scrutiny of rail-related appropriations should extend to other lines like the Light Rail Transit 1 and LRT 2 and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) that are also facing problems.
Of the P43.5-billion budget request of the DOTC for 2016, almost 41 percent of the agency’s proposed spending plan are earmarked for the rail sector.
For the PNR, the government is asking P1.32 billion in operating subsidy and in exchange the train system guarantees to provide “safe and reliable rail services for the Metro South Commuter Services,” the line running from Tutuban, Manila, to Calamba City, Laguna.
The DOTC is requesting P6.75 billion for various LRT extension projects, including P1.62 billion for LRT 1 Cavite Extension Project and P2.9 billion for the LRT 2 Extension Project.