PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte was very clear in his first-ever State of the Nation Address (SONA) that his administration will not engage in finger-pointing. He unequivocally said, “I will not waste precious time dwelling on the sins of the past or blaming those who are perceived to be responsible for the mess that we are in and suffering from.” Great, indeed.
But what if some of these people are still holding on to their positions and misleading the Duterte administration?
The good President stated, “Passenger capacity congestion shall be addressed by increasing the number of running trains from the current 16 trains with a total of 48 cars per hour to 20 trains with a total of 60 cars per hour. You increase the train speed from 40 [kph]to 60 [kph].” Well, the President was clearly misinformed on this issue.
The President is obviously referring to the Metro Rail Transit—Line 3 (MRT3)—because of the direct computation of the total number of cars from the number of trains. MRT3 has a fixed set of three cars per train. In contrast, Light Rail Transit—Line 1 (LRT1)—has a different number of cars per train, depending on the model in operation. The present Build-Lease-Transfer (BLT) Agreement of MRT3, which is still holding, mandates that 16 trains should be in operation during off-peak hours and that during rush hours (peak hours) there should be 18 to 20 trains running in the mainline.
The joint venture of Busan Transportation Corp. and its Filipino partners, which bagged the three-year maintenance contract for MRT3 early this year, is likewise obliged to follow these figures. In fact, the number of running trains at onetime is a major key performance indicator as stipulated in Busan’s contract with the then-Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). [DOTC has since been renamed as the Department of Transport with the creation of a new department—Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)].
The MRT3 Capacity Expansion Project—Lot 1, which was awarded to Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co., of China, way back in 2013, is supposed to address the passenger congestion problem. With 48 new coaches from Dalian, MRT3’s running trains should be upped to 24 trains per hour, with four cars per train, or a total of 96 cars per hour. There is a glaring difference between 60 and 96 cars. Without a doubt, the President was misinformed.
The President continued, “Specifically for the LRT, the operating hours shall be extended from 9:30 to 10:30 p.m., so marami pang mga batang uuwi niyan.” Again, the President was plainly misinformed on this one.
DOTC, way back in Feb. 2014, had already extended the operating hours of the train lines. It started with MRT3 extending by one hour the end of its operating hours, which was followed suit by LRT1. For one reason or another, the old operating hours (not extended) schedule was used when the private firm Light Rail Transit Manila Corp. (LRMC) took over the operations of LRT1 in 2015. Recently, LRMC announced that LRT1’s extended operating hours would take effect from July 10 to Aug. 9 only.
Duterte himself admitted the problem in this manner: “The problem is I can only act through agencies and departments. … I act through secretaries and … I cannot guarantee their honesty and competence at all times.”
There is one logical conclusion from all of these—the holdovers of the Aquino administration, particularly the appointees of Mr. Abaya—Buenafe (MRT3), Chaneco (LRT), and Dilay (PNR)—who are still clutching on to their positions for reasons known only to them and probably to some businessmen, fed the wrong information to Transport Secretary Art Tugade. Tugade then relayed the wrong information to the President.
Thereby, misinforming the President … as well as the Filipino people.
So, there you are. The facts would speak for themselves.
On another front, Duterte mentioned the word “computer” nine times in his maiden SONA. His direction to the Cabinet members was remarkable
—“to all of the Cabinet members: make use of the computer.”
Can this be done? Yes, if there are enough members of the Cabinet and the sub-Cabinet who are familiar with ICT and its proper applications.
Otherwise, they all have to rely on the new DICT and its Secretary, Atty. Rodolfo Salalima. I had an opportunity to work with Salalima when we were both elected as directors of the National ICT Advisory Council (NICTAC). He was then representing the telecommunications sector and pushing for legal reforms in the said industry. Well, I wish you the best of luck, Sec. Salalima.