MRT-3 may collapse anytime


Second of three parts

That warning was made back in September 2011 by TES Philippines (TESP) Inc., which has been the maintenance operator of the Metro Rail Transit System Line 3 (MRT-3) since 2000. The firm is a joint venture of Sumitomo and Mitsubishi Corporation, the two Japanese companies that built the light-rail mass-transit infrastructure in the late 1990s.

President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd to date has failed to implement the solution the TESP said was the only solution to prevent such collapse: Immediately supply an additional fleet of trains and upgrade the electrical and electronic systems supporting it.

We are just plain lucky that the relevant incidents that have occurred so far have only involved trains that had stopped mid-way between stations, car doors that had remained opened even as the train had sped away toward its next destination, and a car that got derailed, plowing its way into a busy thoroughfare in August. But given the bad state of MRT-3 since 2011, according to the firms that built it and had maintained it for a decade, it is a disaster waiting to happen.

I thought it was another case of incompetence bordering on criminal negligence by this student-council government, as former Senator Joker Arroyo vividly described this Administration. It is appearing, though, to be the consequences of a case of a botched extortion attempt.

Don’t blame us, operator said in 2011: Photo of memorandum to DOTC

Don’t blame us, operator said in 2011: Photo of memorandum to DOTC

I cannot find enough words to express my outrage: The solution had been delayed for three years now because the Czech firm, Inekon Group, which was supposed to supply the new fleet of trains, refused to play ball, and protested the alleged attempt by transport and communications officials to extort $30 million as bribe for the $174 million contract to push through.

The DOTC did finally find a supplier to replace Inekon – a Chinese firm, but which reportedly has no experience in building the kind of double-articulated light-rail system that the MRT-3 uses. But even if it manages to manufacture the cars, the next question is, when will the delivery be? Late 2015, the DOTC says. No way, industry sources say, predicting that it will be in 2016 at the earliest, after Aquino steps down.

And I’m sure DOTC Secretary Emilio Abaya would vouch that this Chinese firm didn’t have to pay a single centavo of bribe money for the P4 billion supply contract it got without any bidding. The Chinese just don’t do that kind of hanky-panky.

With the increase in ridership in the four years since that 2011 warning was made, and the reduction of train cars from 72 to just 50 running now, this Administration has criminally subjected our commuters to the risk of death and injury if the MRT trains do collapse.

In a detailed six-page memorandum dated 21 September 2011 to Honorio Vitasa, then general manager of the transport and communications department’ MRT3-EDSA Line unit, maintenance operator TESP President Kiyoshi Morita said that the train cars’ “overloaded condition exceeded the maximum allowable ridership, which will give mechanical and electrical stress to equipment and damage (sic) the total train system.”

Eventual Collapse
“Eventual collapse of the rolling Stock System and even the Wayside system may happen if drastic and immediate changes will not be made,” Morita warned. (The rolling stock refers to the light-rail vehicle cars, while the “wayside system” refers to the tracks and the electrical/electronic systems to keep the cars on it.)

Morita provided statistics which showed that ridership increased from 11.5 million in August 2005 to 13.8 million in the same month in 2011, which is way beyond the number of passengers the light-rail vehicles were designed to carry. On weekdays, according to Morita, the average ridership had increased from 417,000 in 2005 to 510,000 by 2011.

Using Morita’s annual figures from 2005 to 2011 to derive the annual average rate of increase of 7 percent annually in daily ridership, MRT-3 would now be carrying—dangerously—625,000 passengers daily, nearly double the 350,000 people it was designed to transport per day.

Morita in his memorandum explained: “Since the year 1999, TESP has already made many countermeasures and changes to prevent the recurrence of many failures. Seemingly and theoretically and based on the maintenance manual, these improvements will result in better performance of the trains.”

“However, with this overloading situation, it is very difficult to recover the peak performance of the trains in spite of the many changes that it has implemented because this is beyond the capacity of the trains to perform normally and recover after serious stress,” the memorandum read.

He explained: “Please note that even if overloading is experienced only for a few times, the elevated stress will weaken the electrical and mechanical properties of the equipment. In the case of MRT-3, the number of passengers onboard the trains exceeded daily, except Sundays [emphasis in the original], the maximum number (394) allowed per car.

“Consequently, failure resulting in the abnormal removal of trains, and a major incident will be experienced,” according to Morita, who put that sentence in bold and underlined it for emphasis.

Morita, though, was writing in that peculiar Japanese way of understating things.

What he really, obviously meant for “abnormal removal” was the derailment of a train or a portion of it (which had already actually happened)—a grave disaster if a car on an elevated portion of the tracks were to be derailed and fall on cars and buses along EDSA, which is what the Japanese executive was likely referring to when he used the term “major incident.”

“Worse,” according to Morita, “breakdown of the vital equipment may occur at almost the same time and this will affect the secondary and minor equipment. At this point, any good maintenance may not be enough to recover the regular performance of the trains, and safety will be compromised. Also, maintenance will be too costly and impractical to perform, while the recovery and safety may not be “assured.”

To the junk shop
Again, the Japanese executive was being polite. What he obviously meant: “If breakdown of the system finally happens, you’d be better off just selling the MRT to the junk shop.”

Morita explained that temporary solutions, which his firm in fact had been doing, involve shortening the cycle for the cars’ preventive maintenance periods, and taking measures to reduce the number of passengers on the cars.

However, Morita emphasized: “These are not enough to solve the problem on the deterioration and early ageing of the equipment, which was already evident. Eventually because of the steady increase in passengers, the Rolling stock and the wayside equipment will again experience many failures and troubles.”

Morita recommended: “We need to pursue the capacity expansion project of the MRT3-system to provide additional trains for revenue service. By adding more trains at the main line, we will relieve the present MRT-3 trains from overloading and prolong the life by having lesser electrical and mechanical load on the trains. We need to upgrade the wayside equipment to accommodate the changes and slow down the system’s deterioration.”

Morita concluded his memorandum by emphasizing his warning: “We reiterate that the train and the system of the MRT-3 are designed for a maximum capacity of 394 persons per car. If more passengers than the maximum capacity ride the train even for a short time, the train system might be damaged. The overloading would have detrimental effects resulting in the shorter life of parts and early deterioration of the trains and may lead to a breakdown and the total collapse of the Rolling stock.”

So, did this Administration heed Morita’s warning?

Yes, and no. And the story behind the “yes” and the “no” will outrage you, enough for you to wish that this Administration would go to hell ASAP, I guarantee that. Read about it on Friday.
FB: Rigoberto Tiglao


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  1. The mishandling of the MRT has reached epic proportions, yet no one is being held accountable for it. Does the plight of the working class Filipino not matter to the Aquino Administration?

  2. Dina Dela Cuesta on

    The MRT serves as the lifeline for many ordinary working Filipinos. The Administration’s failure in keeping it in good and safe working condition will affect these people’s capacity to earn a living. The Administration and its allies are so used to their elite and high faulting lifestyle, they fail to really grasp what this means to the general public.

  3. Why is it the our government refuses to take actions until its too late? God forbid these trains gets derailed and lives will be lost, I can already here Aquino passing the blame on someone else.

  4. gabriela silang on

    galit, asar at poot ang aking nararamdaman sa kawalan ng pagmamalasakit ng pamahalaan sa mga pasahero at mamamayan. matapos mabasa yung sulat ni g. morita, marapat lamang sana na tinugunan agad ng administrasyon upang di na mabot pa sa ganitong nakakabahalang sitwasyon ang mrt. totoo ngang kahindikhindik ang pagwawalang bahala ng pamahalaan sa mga warning ni morita dahil sa sobrang ganid sa salapi at kawalan ng pakialam anuman ang mangyari sa mga mananakay matupad lang ang katakawan sa pera.
    nakakapanlumo ang katotohanang tayo ay pinagkaitan ng mga lider na mapagmalasakit at nag iisip ng kapakanan nating mga mamamayan. masama ang magsumpa but THE HELL WITH THIS UNCARING GOVERNMENT! we can hardly feel its presence. just how much pain and suffering is needed to jolt aquino, abaya and action? should there be deaths before they will come to their senses? god forbids but if this happens, blood will be in their hands and the enduring people will haunt and hunt them til kingdom come.

  5. pls. explain to me whats the rule of mrt holding? as what i understand mrt holding is a private firm, why dotc keeps on interfering d operation?

    • MRT Holdings thru MRT Corp financed and built MRT and owns it and leased it to govt. Just as if you bought a car & leased it to somebody who has the responsibility to maintain it.

  6. Simply put the present administration just don’ t have any idea on the simple principle of wear and tear, design capacity, preventive maintennance etc. etc, etc. God bless the riding public. God forbid, aquino is waiting for a big bang on these mrt’s to happen. Chinese train is a recipe for disaster. Anyway, God bless the philippines.

  7. opinion reader on

    P.I., P.I. at P.I., dati rin rin akong pasahero ng MRT, malaki ang ginhawa ng ibinigay ng MRT, no need to bring your own car going to work, pero sa mga nangyaring anomalya at trahedya sa MRT, napilitan na akong magdala ng sasakyan, na sa tingin eh halos lahat ng tao eh nag dadala na rin ng sariling sasakyan papasok sa trabaho, kaya eto buhol-buhol ang trapik sa lansangan. Ngayon around 40kph na lang ang takbo ng MRT, kasi nga ubos na pala ang stock na mga riles para sa pag kumpuni nito. Eh papa ano kung may biglang bumigay na riles sa 40kph na takbo? ang remedyo ba eh 20kph na takbo? sa mga na mumuno sa MRT at DOTC, isang alang po natin ang buhay ng KAPwA nyo pilipino na mananakay ng MRT. baka pwede po i-hinto muna ang operasyon ng MRT, at gumawa kayo ng alternatibong paraan para ma accomodate ang riding public, kesa naman po, na lahing nalalagay sa peligro ang mga pilipino? anyway nice “column” Mr. Tiglao. Dami ako nakukuha na information tungkol sa miss-management ng MRT. dagdag ito sa mga info na nabasa ko sa “column” ni Mr. Jarius Bondoc. mabuhay po kayo!

  8. I cant wait for the third part of Tiglao’s column. Anybody brave enough to copy these comments and distribute them to the MRT RIDERS?

  9. Daniel B. Laurente on

    Probably the lack of interest in upgrading the MRT-3 System by the concern transpo officials was due to hangover experienced from the very nature of our transport system in metro manila and other parts of the country. It took several years for some Bus Operators to provide the riding public a new fleet of comfortable buses until all of their existing ones are totally rundown and become un-operational. Also some new ( looks new ) ones that continues to ply the routes were just recycled and painted as new but the over all parts are recycled from the junkyards that they don’t last longer. Reasons that our transpo system is really in a poor conditions while people tried their best to use and be contented with it, just to arrived to their places of work and to other destinations. So, my thoughts maybe wrong but this principle I cited above from the Bus Operators could be the reason why the MRT-3 System is not upgraded till now. We have to wait until all of the couches are not rrunning anymore then cramming actions just follows after it.

    • Along this line, Sometimes I wonder if these incidents have happened frequently in the past (aside from derailment) but that riders were already resigned to it, conditioned by an environment of poor government service, so no one reported it, while DOTC officials just adopted a ‘puwede na iyan’ mindset.

  10. Dapat nga sa MRT por kilo na lang. Yesterday I was late for work because of a reported crack in the MRT rails. This got me wondering that if DOTC had not been on heightened alert in the light of the attention directed at them, they may have missed that with disastrous results. And all they could do was make ‘tapal’ with some jury-rigged device because ubos na ang kanilang stockpile of rails, something Sumitomo took pains to maintain.

  11. This administration will not only be answerable to the Filipino people for criminal negligence but to God.

  12. Mr. Tiglao,
    Could these very sensitive and impending disaster issues be brought to court so that the rest of the Filipinos would be aware on how to prevent the worst-case scenario? Some Filipinos might be thinking that you are just criticizing President Aquino’s administration because of your perceived affiliation with the former administration. Somebody from your country with courage and compassion for the working/average Filipino must initiate the move.

  13. Our MRT3 is just an example of how this hypocritical, corrupt and inefficient government has neglected and waffled for politics sake, critical sectors such as energy and other infrastructure which the Philippines needs bring in investment that creates jobs so we can break into the the ranks of modernity that our southeast asian neighbors have long achieved.

  14. Amb. Tiglao, Napakaganda ng inilahad mo na pawang Katotohanan. Ang gobyerno
    ni Pnoy ay may manhid na utak kaya hindi iniintindi ang sinabi ni Mr. Morita ng
    Tes Phil. joint venture na 2 higanteng kumpaniya ng Japan, Mitsubishi at
    Somitomo. Bukod sa manhid ang utak nila, napakasinungaling ng administrasyon
    ni Pnoy. Papaano ipapaliwanag ang napakaliwanag na Katiwalian sa dagliang
    paglilipat ng Kontrata ng Maintenance ng MRT mula sa Somitomo Jv.
    na kilala sa husay at mapagkakatiwalaan, at isinalin sa isang ka ka tayo o
    registro na kumpaniya na walang sapat na Kapital, walang track record o
    technical kapasidad. Kahit sa trolley di sipa na gamit sa riles ng tiga Muntilupa
    at Laguna ay di kayang erepair. Na kahit, kitang kita na nila ang araw
    araw na pagkasira, ng tren nasa ngayon oras oras na, ay patuloy parin
    nilang binabayaran. Maliaban na lang kung pinaghahatihatian ng mga
    tulisan ang nasisingil na maintenance charges. Maliwanag sa sinasabi ng
    mga papel na pruweba mo amb. tiglao na 2011 pa lang inaalarma na sila
    ng tes, pero walang ginawa ang dotc, pero sa ngayon hugas kamay
    sila at puro paninisi sa nagmamayari ng system ang pananga. Ngayon
    ay isinusulong nila ang pagbili ng gobyerno ng pagmamay-ari ng systema,
    para siguro mapagtakpan ang kanilang incompetence at napakalaking
    tongpats nanaman. Dapat itong bantayang mabuti. Kayo po at si
    mr Jarius Bondoc ang ilan sa magigiting na Journalist na nagsisiwalat at
    patuloy na tumututok sa mga katiwalian at kasinungalingan ng administrasyong

  15. The MRT MESS is a result of the mismanagement and incompetence of the DAANG MATUWID Sec pAbaya, who knows nothing about mass transit system at all and his alipores. If this had occurred in other countries like Japan, Taiwan and Singapore sec. pAbaya should be in jail now for command responsibility. it’s more fun in the Philippines for incompetent and corrupt officials. How long will the riding public suffer for the mismanagement of the MRT3? Only God knows.

  16. Pwede stop muna ang operation ng MRT 3 bago mangyari ang malagim na aksidente. Aantayin pa banatin na marami ang mamatay? PI PI PI PI.

  17. very true indeed! the increasing number of failures and hiccups, most especially on broken rails, are telltale of impending disaster (hopefully not catastrophic) to happen. government agencies are full of incompetent and good for nothing personnel who think only on how to line their pockets at the expense of the people paying taxes.

  18. to be fair, the present mess on mrt 3 are the convolution done by previous and present administration. during the time of GMA, if the mrt 3 is allowed to expand or upgrade maybe this thing will not happen, worst thing GMA done is to extend lrt 1 from monumento to north avenue, which should be the other way around or opposite.
    Now the aquino administration with abaya and mar roxas, made the situation of mrt 3 from critical to worst condition, the senate hearing last week tells us about the real score of mrt 3.

    • Here goes another blame gamer. These failures did not happen during the Arroyo administration, unless you can give me proof otherwise. One main reason why we are experiencing screw-ups one after another is the failure of proper maintenance of the trains and its accessories. Since this administration junked and did not renew the Sumitumo maintenance contract, accidents have been happening almost daily. Blame the PNoy administration for this screw-ups and do not point fingers to others just like the PNoy bad habit.

    • Please read the article carefully. During the past administrations, the MRT was maintained properly. For almost 14 years, I’ve relied on it to go to work. Dati, walang problema at ngayon lang lumala. Now, the DOTC thesis club is thinking of shutting it down without any alternatives or backup plans. So, why blame the past admin? Sa apat na taon wala sila ginawa? Pinaltan nila ang Sumitomo in favor of relatives? Their lack of foresight is the cause of this problem. Give us, their bosses, solutions instead of problems and excuses. Sa presinto sila magpaliwanag.

  19. Somehow we must get the political appointees out of operating positions. We need dedicated professional civil servants who are experts in their fields, running the MRT and all rail systems. On second thought we need that to happen with all government departments and branches.

  20. MRT3 is a mirror of how this country is being run by this administration. Just look at how an already bad traffic situation turn to hellish simply because no road has been added to the network since he took over, the port congestion, airport issues, etc, etc and Aquino still have the gall to dream of a second term. Perhaps the Abnoy is fantasizing about a flying MRT3 train that will land on EDSA to run with the buses.

  21. Roldan Guerrero on

    It is NOT only the MRT that needs ASAP complete phase-out and modernization. The TOP PRIORITY of all problems to be solved is this INCUMBENT GOVERNMENT. WITHOUT CHANGING OR JUNKING ALL THE ELEMENTS OF THIS GOVERNMENT, every Filipinos will suffer for the worst to come! This regime is not only SUBSTANDARD but is compared to the EBOLA VIRUS that kills mercilessly if not prevented. The ouster of this CORRUPTION VIRUS INFECTED REGIME should start from initiative of all MRT commuters followed by every concerned Filipinos who are aware of the prostituted abuses of this regime.

  22. Leodegardo Pruna on

    It is the administration’s doing if the disaster does happen. And, by the looks of it the administration is fast doing what would happen by its words and deeds. God bless the Philippines.

  23. Tama ang sinabi ni Joker Arroyo na ang skul bukol council government ni Pnoy ay puro bukol. The failures of the MRT-3 management is attributed to the corruption of his mafia gang. The deterioration of the MRT-3 is now irreversible. Even metals get fatigued. To prevent major disaster and catastrophe to happen to our commuters, JUNK the MRT-3 and so the student council government of Pnoy ASAP.

  24. Sec. Abaya has “kapal mukha”. He should have resigned immediately after Vitangcol resigned. He knew nothing about managing DOTC and the transport system. LTO, MRT, Telecom, etc. are terribly mis-managed. PNoy has no conscience, so he doesn’t care about the plight of the MM commuters.

  25. In other words, what you thought was another case of incompetence bordering on criminal negligence by this student-council government, as former Senator Joker Arroyo vividly described this Administration is appearing, though, to be the consequences of a case of a botched extortion attempt. So the criminal offense of Aquino consists in not buying the new fleet of trains from the Inekon group because Inekon refused to come up with the $30 M bribe money, the group of Abaya was demanding? Isn’t this the extortion try involving the sister of the Abnoy, Ballsy Cruz? So “plundering” runs in the Abnoy’s family too, aside from mental illness?

  26. I guess, the moral of the story is that MRT is the delapidated transport for Matuwid na Daan to disaster, to nowhere.

  27. I pray that our government specially DOTC knows what to do and has a urgent solution before this disaster happen.

  28. Student government indeed. Stupid, clueless and incompetent amateurs leading the nation to disaster.

  29. This current administration is not only incompetent but doesn’t care for public service. They only care for themselves and their k k k.