BACK from our short trip abroad, we were welcomed by Metro Manila’s usual traffic jams. There are just too many vehicles on the streets that our road systems are bursting at the seams. Traffic congestion in the metropolis has gone from bad to worse. On some days, motorists experience traffic jams until past midnight.
The reason people here drive their own vehicles is because we have no efficient mass transport system. Having just visited New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. where both blue and white collar workers regularly take trains to and from the city (or “downtown,” as locals call it), we can’t help but notice the glaring disparity.
Their train systems are efficient, comfortable and on time, light years away from our Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit that suffer from frequent breakdowns. Passengers are herded like cattle, sweating profusely in the summer heat because of the poor (and oftentimes, inexistent) air conditioning system.
Even worse is the Philippine National Railway (PNR) train which runs from Tutuban in Manila all the way to Calamba, Laguna. How many times have we seen horrible accidents involving commuters? Just a few weeks ago, a southbound PNR train got derailed in Taguig, injuring scores of terrified passengers.
The PNR management temporarily suspended railway operations to conduct an immediate inspection of the railroad tracks. It turned out the accident was caused by something as elementary as missing railway parts due to cannibalization by petty thieves.
This is clearly a case of poor supervision and maintenance by the management of PNR headed by General Manager (GM) Joseph Allan Dilay, who we noticed has embarked on an expensive tri-media public relations campaign to trumpet the PNR’s so-called accomplishments.
We recall that the PNR used to deploy eight trains last year. Today, however, there are only five trains left in operation. Whatever happened to the billions – P2.2 billion to be exact – in government funds that were allocated to PNR for the rehabilitation of its fleet?
We hope the money is being used for the intended purpose and not pocketed by unscrupulous individuals.
Something should also be done to address the numerous fatal accidents involving pedestrians. Just recently, we were informed that immediate families of victims hit by trains who seek financial assistance are being given the run-around by Dilay’s functionaries.
Case in point: The family of a Filipino OFW working in Taiwan who came home for a vacation here and was hit and killed by a PNR train in Makati last February. Grieving relatives were told by Dilay’s staff that all they could expect from the PNR was P10,000 for “humanitarian considerations.”
Months later, family members still have not received this paltry sum from the PNR. They are being made to come back many times by Dilay’s staff to bring this and that document. They’ve braved the heat and the traffic just to beg Dilay for the P10,000 promised to them.
Where is compassion here? Where is justice? The heartless PNR management has said they have the right of way. That may be legally correct but the poor relatives of the victim were merely asking for some financial assistance for the small children of the deceased OFW who was the family breadwinner.
What exactly does Dilay do inside his office anyway? We often see him posing for photo releases in a dapper suit that looks more expensive than the P10,000 pledged to the OFW’s family but we wonder if he has ever tried riding one of his trains during peak hours.
Early this year, Dilay was quoted by Rappler as saying he will resign if train services do not improve. With the horrific accident just a few weeks back involving the train derailment, isn’t it time he made good on his promise?
Worse, talks are rife that favored contractors are now trying to corner the bulk of the multi-billion budgetary allocations that Congress has appropriated for PNR. Our sources from the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) say that the wife of a top PNR official is acting as broker for suppliers and contractors of the department’s projects including that of PNR’s.
The very influential “Mrs.” would reportedly identify big ticket projects and get in touch with a company to supply or deliver the services needed by the agencies.
With all the accidents and scandal involving the PNR, it’s clear Dilay failed to fulfill his mandate to provide better services and facilities for train commuters.
If Dilay cannot control graft in his agency and cannot spare some money to help the families of poor victims while spending so much on his PR campaign, then President Aquino ought to seriously consider replacing PNR’s non-performing GM, perhaps even with someone from his infamous “KKK” gang.