PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is ready to let go of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade if he fails to address the almost daily malfunctions and breakdowns plaguing the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3), Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, Palace spokesman Harry Roque reiterated the President’s firm stance against incompetent government officials.
“I will not speculate. But I think the track record of the President speaks for itself. It does not matter if you’re closest to him. If he thinks you should go, you will go,” Roque said during a press conference.
But at the same time, Roque quoted Tugade as saying that the MRT-3 system would undergo a “revamp” under the Duterte administration.
The transportation department recently terminated the contract the previous government had struck with MRT maintenance provider Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) following successive breakdowns in the operations of the train system.
Roque admitted the decision of the administration to terminate the contract with BURI created a “legal quicksand,” noting that “although you can unilaterally rescind [a contract], you do so at the risk of being overruled by the courts.”
The transportation department has also filed plunder and graft complaints against Cabinet members of the Aquino administration over the same issue.
“On the positive steps taken to improve MRT-3, he (Tugade) assured me number one, that they are going to procure a reliable maintenance contractor; number two, they’re building new rails. They’re buying new train cars and new signaling system. They are in other words revamping almost completely the MRT,” Roque said.
He, however, said the government does not want to impose a deadline in addressing the frequent technical glitches and capacity issues of MRT-3.
The Palace official instead offered to ride the train so he could see the problems firsthand.
“It’s very difficult to set a deadline. I think Secretary Tugade knows that we’re looking up to him for a solution. I’m sure that Secretary Tugade is taking all the necessary steps,” Roque said.
“I wish I could give you a deadline. All that I can offer you is I can offer once a week to take MRT coming to work… I can do that so that I can complain personally to the MRT people. Maybe I’ll do that once a week. I’ll do that,” he added.
Under the previous administration, former transportation chief Joseph Abaya also took the MRT to conduct a “safety visit” amid glitches experienced by the train system but drew flak for making such a move. CATHERINE S. VALENTE