• Metro Manila mass transport’s anchor is decrepit, dangerous, off-track

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    In developed economies, the state’s mandate to  provide  mass transport to  citizens  efficiently and at the most competitive cost  is on the top tier of their policy concerns.

    Mass transport as a policy concern takes an extraordinary  level of  importance in countries such as Singapore, a small, densely population  place with no urban sprawl.

    More, these  developed economies work on the premise that promoting mass transport is part of the state’s social contract with its citizens, as important as promoting education and providing universal  health care.

    The Philippines is a sorry outlier. Despite the boast that the country is one of the best performing economies in the world, it is all gaps, mediocrity and failure in the state’s fulfillment of  the social contract. The education sector is mediocre. Health care is inadequate. The worst has yet to be described: mass transport  in a metropolis that is one of the most populous and chaotic in the world.

    Mass transport in Metro Manila is a Slough of Despond, with the MRT 3  as its public face. And the MRT is decrepit, dangerous and running off-track. The fielding of so-called articulated buses is the ultimate admission of MRT’s giant failure.

    And there is a plethora of evidence that suggests that the   government bureaucrats and state institutions that oversee the MRT are to be blamed—squarely and unequivocally —for the near-breakdown of the MRT  infrastructure and the now-familiar three- hour  wait for trains. And we may add this: trains  that often break down hallway through the short metro trips.

    And attempts by these state apparatchiks to  pass or to shift  the blame elsewhere would not wash.

    And the only other news story that has been played more prominently than the harrowing experiences of MRT 3  riders and the inefficiency of the system is this:  the alleged attempt by some MRT apparatchiks to demand bribes for a botched coach-supply deal. The  alleged bribery story exposed by a  diplomat,  by all benchmarks,  is so far the biggest scandal to rock the  current “daang matuwid” administration. It allegedly involves corruption in high places.

    So  how  decrepit is the  state of the MRT 3? The data will make you sad for this country.

    The MRT, according to available data, has a running total of 12 to 15 trains, way below the minimum requirement.  The minimum requirement is 20 trains. Each train has three coaches. The last time the minimum requirement was fulfilled is now history.

    The private operator has claimed to have done what it could possibly do to ease the acute train shortage and the breakdown of the trains  that are still in operation. First, it requested the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), (the cabinet body that oversees the government functionaries who supervise the MRT), to get a third party technical audit of the entire MRT system.  The idea was to hire the best technical people to carry out an independent, in-depth audit, outside of the sway of the  government functionaries.

    The DOTC, for one perplexing reason or another, has refused a third-party audit on why the MRT trains have gotten to degenerate that much. What are the things and issues that the DOTC bosses do not want a third party to  find out? Is it the shoddy maintenance work? Is it the  massive  failure of the MRT’s service and maintenance  work?

    Take note of the fact that the DOTC is now effectively in charge of the overall service and maintenance of the MRT trains. For reasons also baffling and mysterious,  the consortium that maintained the trains for 10  straight years until 2012 was not given a renewed contract.

    The DOTC, in an act of supreme pettiness, does not even allow the engineers and technical people of the private operator to enter the MRT depot. What gives? What is the DOTC hiding? Why is  the private operator banned from entering the MRT depot, which it technically owns until 2025?

    Next question. Why was there no anticipatory move, such as beefing up the MTR trains to meet the surging traffic?

    The private operator said  that from 2000 up to 2010, it has proposed five train purchase programs. The first one, made in  year 2000, was turned down by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) on the grounds that the traffic was not yet that big and an expansion was premature.

    The last and 5th  proposal was made in November 2010. The private operator proposed a modernization program, and sweetened the proposal as “no cost” to the government. The DOTC responded by buying trains from a Chinese supplier.

    On March 26, 2014, what happened at the Guadalupe station was not a minor glitch, the kind the MRT users were used to. A train with its three coaches had an emergency brake stop, injuring most passengers on board. Eight of the injured were rushed to a Makati hospital for treatment.

    That was  not a mere communication system breakdown, nor a brief stoppage.  That was a real accident with many people injured. There are now real worries that the deterioration of the MRT trains has taken a fast, fast clip.

    Will heads roll? Will there be policy and operational changes? Or, would it be the same old stories of negligence, indifference and corruption?

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    8 Comments

    1. Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your content seem to be running off the screen in Chrome.
      I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with
      internet browser compatibility but I thought I’d post to let you know.
      The design and style look great though! Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Cheers

    2. Manang Dolor on

      Pres Noy Government spend around 4 billion for MRT Rehab, na sa tingin ko lalong nag deteriorate simula nung sila ang humawak nitong 2012. Then may mga transactions pa sila na nababalot ng anumalya dahil doon sa czech partner nila for rehab. Aba pansarili lang ata ang naiisip nila, or gusto nanaman nilang kumita.

    3. Roy Villarama on

      So what is DOTC waiting for? A derailing that kills dozens of people? Ever since PNoy’s political appointees in DOTC took over operations from the private operator in 2012, the MRT has been MaRupok Talaga. Did they think they could do better? Tapos sasabihin nila wala silang pera. Bakit, masyadong mahal ba ang LIBRE? That’s right! PNoy and company have refused free rehabilitation of the MRT from private companies. Gusto nilang gagastusin ng P4B ng ating pera. Would it have anything to do with the *alleged* kickback of US$40M from the Czech contractor to the MRT GM? Plus ayaw silan na may audit? Kailan pang kikilos si Mr. President?

      PNoy listens only yo the leftists who want to nationalize everything: Water, electricity and transportation. Well, MRT3 is Exhibit A on how efficiently a nationalized industry is operated.

    4. Renato Madla on

      Anong nangyayari nanaman sa ating gobyerno? may tinatago nanaman ba sila sa atin? nararamdaman ba nila yung hirap natin sa pagbiyahe? Sa araw araw kakaibang problema sa siguridad pala ang hinaharap natin. Paano na lang pag naulit ulit ang nangyari nung march 26? sabihin nanaman nila na minor glitch yun? eh naulit nanaman. At kung anu-anong kontratang patago nanaman ang pinapasok ng gobyerno natin. Ibigay naman sana nila ang serbisyo na dapat para sa atin.

    5. If there is someone to be blame for failure of people to perform well, it’s the attitude of those leaders around them. The author’s crticism is a typical example of a “bad critic”.
      I would not listen to people who starts crticism by saying “things have been screwed up”, “slough of despond” or “you made a mistake”..Why can’t you amongst people know how to make professional criticism. Please start with the “Kiss, Kick and Kiss”. This is the technique we use to crticize well educated people.

      The author’s comments are insulting to say the least. I don’t believe that the points that the author stated have not been considered or not known to people. I have been workign abroad for the last 30 years. I have contributed in my small way and have helped repatriate abused Filipinas from ME. Did I ever criticized the previous presidents? Nope. In fact we have listened to them and participated on their efforts. To be honest, if all “negative people – for lack of better term” are outside the country then
      I believe our country would move forward smoothly and in the right direction.

      Proper criticism is what I am advocating here. People won’t listen if the first thing that comes out from a critic is negative which I call “kick”. I would start my criticism with kiss to point out the good things , and then a bit of “kick” to point out some weaknesses and suggestions ..and end up with a “kiss” .. restate the good points so that the person leaves with good feeling and do his job better next time!

    6. Miguel M. Halago on

      As of last year I have become a frequent user of the MRT3 and I am very much concerned with the state the MRT3 has degenerated since the transit has been in service for more than a decade.

      At this point or even before that, shouldn’t the whole transit be upgraded or inspected?
      The facilities have started to break down, certain stations can barely hold a normal ‘commuting migration’ and the trains can’t cope the volume and also shown signs of extensive decay (aircon can’t be felt at times and the trains sometimes stalls between runs).

      I hate to be a pessimist but this might soon turn into another typical bus accident again and the last thing the country wants is a packed MRT accident.

      Our Public Transportation is such a huge mess and a failure in every meaning of providing a basic service that features efficiency and safety to its riders.

    7. Since I am an outsider, a simple Juan de la Cruz; a story like this reinforces my personal observation. Thank you Mr. Ronquillo. Granted your observation is true, my concern is and it is really baffling, wala na bang matino. Na once a person get near the axis of power and perhaps wealth, nag-iiba ang takbo ng isip. Instead of service to their constituents and or the people it become personal (self serving, self preservation)…Corruption becomes a culture.

    8. Havent you worked it out yet. I worked it all out very soon after moving here from the uk. The people in power in the philippines care only of one thing, themselves, they will lie cheat steal anything to get more money. They are not the right people for running anything.
      Look at this, my friend ( also a brit ) built a house & applied for a phoneline, he told them he wanted the line for phoning back to the uk, he didnt need it for anything else. Well they couldnt for months give him a line as they said the box was full. The box was full, use a bigger box, put in another box for when other people also build a house here. So now move forward a few months & he gets his phone line. Now he tries to phone his mother in the uk & they said you cant make international phone calls, you have to come to the office & fill in some more paperwork. So now the incompetance of these people, thats what he told them he wanted the phone line for to make calls to the uk ( international calls ), why didnt they get him to fill in the appropriate paperwork in the 1st place. Its like that in every single comapany.
      Take kentucky fried chicken ( KFC ), in the ukl i can buy 1 piece, 2 pieces, 3 pieces, 1 piece with chips, chips on their own, i can buy any single thing or mixture of things, but ehre you have to have rice with it. Why, why cant i just buy a single piece of chicken & add anything i want to it. Ill tell you why i think this is, not only with kfc but with every single company here in the philippines. They see how it worksin other coutries & works well & think we will do it differently. Im sorry but i think everyone in charge here is incompetent & just plain useless. Its probably why your supposedly very intelligent people here work abroad not in their designated skill but a lowly skill because their qualifications arnt good enough or recognised in other countries.