The government should have full control of the management and ownership of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 to effectively address the issues plaguing the rail system, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said.
Bello made the call a day before the scheduled MRT shutdown, from late evening on Saturday until noon of Sunday, to replace its old rail tracks.
“This planned shutdown (of the MRT) is like changing the old tires of a car whose engine has gone bust. To reverse the dangers of years of neglect and irresponsibility on the part of MRT Corporation (MRTC) and its maintenance subcontractors, it is high time that the government takes full ownership, control, and management of the MRT,” Bello said.
Bello cited the findings of researcher James Miraflor, which showed a chain of blame that obscures the liability of MRTC and DOTC for failing to improve the MRT system.
Miraflor’s research revealed that from December 1999 and 2012, Sumitomo was supposed to provide MRT’s maintenance and repair, an initiative that the MRTC was supposed to oversee. The rapid decline of the MRT then proceeded when PH-Trams took over the maintenance job in late October 2012, and then replaced by Global-APT in September 2013.
“MRTC tolerated the bad performance of its maintenance companies. They skimped on repairs. They never even had upgraded to new trains. They just let all 73 original light rail vehicles (LRVs) deteriorate over time, until the riding public was left with only 50 operational LRVs. And then they cannibalized trains, replaced faulty parts in working vehicles with “spare” parts from vehicles that have already been decommissioned,” Bello said.
“The problem with the private sector running the MRT is that they try to run it for the profit, skimp on maintenance costs, adopt absurdly arbitrary fare hikes and then expect government to fix the system when it breaks. The government should take bolder action towards full management and ownership of MRT to prevent the gross mismanagement by the private sector and establish clear mechanisms of accountability,” Bello added.
Bello also faulted then MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol III who has awarded the maintenance contract to PH-Trams, and then to Global-APT, companies whose directors are close to Vitangcol. Furthermore, Global APT was just set up shortly before the awarding of the contract.
The MRT was again derailed for the nth time on Friday, after one of its trains left Buendia station, causing the passengers to fall like dominoes.
“The government must not spend public funds for the upkeep of the MRT only for another private enterprise to mismanage the train and allow its fast deterioration,” Bello said.
The Aquino administration proposed a P54 billion buyout of the MRT under the P2.6 trillion budget for 2015, but Congress rejected the proposal.