“The train accidents are a textbook illustration of what happens when profit rules over what is supposedly for social service.” – Sammy Malunes, RILES Network
See also: How MRT3 services get worse under Aquino
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Over the past few months it seemed as though no news bulletin goes by without an account of trouble in the Edsa-bound MRT (Metro Rail Transit-Line 3 or MRT-3). The most recent were instances when a running train had a coach with doors still open, endangering the passengers. Once, two coaches full of passengers ignited. Another time, a three-coach train suddenly braked, slamming passengers into walls and floors.
The worst accident occurred last month, Aug. 13, when a train got stalled somewhere in the vicinity of the Magallanes station. As per the MRT3 rules for train drivers, the train that followed it unloaded its passengers and went to push the stalled train. They coupled the train, but when the train being pushed passed an incline between the relatively higher tracks of Magallanes going to the nearly street-level Taft station, it reportedly got loose and out of the pushing train’s control.
Not knowing his train was at that time already on its own, the train driver of the wayward train called the MRT3 control center telling it to caution the other train driver against going too fast. With his train malfunctioning, he had no way of controlling it. MRT-3 workers told Bulatlat.com that the speed of the malfunctioning train going down exceeded the 20 kph limit of the tracks’ stopper. So the train overshot the tracks, bringing with it parts of the tracks and the stopper and slamming to the nearest concrete barrier, hurting scores of passengers some of whom had to be brought to the hospital.
The increasingly dangerous MRT3 ride has been used as occasions for DOTC Sec. Hernando Abaya and Presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte to separately hold photo ops of their taking the MRT ride. But the commuter group RILES Network (Riles Laan sa Sambayanan Network) has more succinct suggestions to make MRT3 safer, affordable and more for public service than as it is being handled by the past and present governments.
‘PR gimmicks non-solution to perilous MRT rides’
After Abaya and Valte’s publicized MRT ride, Sammy Malunes, spokesperson of RILES Network, said in a statement that “It is disgusting how instead of taking the steps necessary to improve the MRT, the Aquino government is engaging in cheap publicity gimmicks to make it appear that the MRT is safe and efficient.”
RILES Network described as “revolting” the Aquino government’s taking advantage of MRT troubles to push for even more anti-commuter acts involving the railways. One of these is pushing for a fare hike.
Another is the government’s continued effort to hand over the MRT to the private sector, which, commuter groups warn, would only further turn the MRT3 into a profit-making venture rather than a public service. Meanwhile, another consistent act deemed as against the interest of tax-paying commuters is the alleged corruption in the public-private management of MRT3.
The last major accident that occurred in MRT3 was an example of accidents waiting to happen in the train, Malunes told Bulatlat.com. He said accidents threaten train riders every day ever since the government signed onerous contracts with private corporations that gave them the license to underspend on train maintenance in order to rake in bigger profits.
“The train accidents are a textbook illustration of what happens when profit rules over what is supposedly for social service,” Sammy Malunes of RILES Network said.
As we write, the group is unearthing more questionable issues in the private-public running of MRT3. The latest was Senator Nancy Binay’s revelation that the DOTC surrendered P4.5 billion ($102 million) allocated for purchasing new cars for the MRT to the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) which was recently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
“The MRT has become a milking cow for corrupt officials who have been filling their pockets at the expense of the safety and wellbeing of commuters. DOTC Sec. Joseph Abaya has run the MRT with disgustingly gross nepotism, patronage and corruption,” said Malunes.
The decrepit state today of the MRT3, despite billions of public funds spent annually to subsidize it, and the billions more of public funds waiting to be spent to maintain it, amid allegations of kickbacks involving persons close to the president, have been prompting calls for government takeover of MRT3, and abrogation of contracts it entered into with the private sector.
Malunes warned that based on the statements of the Aquino government’s people in the railways, the government is bent on pushing with the train’s privatization, when the commuters see privatization as the cause of its problems today.
As the commuter groups demand government takeover of MRT3, they also demand accountability of government officials alleged to have been involved in corrupt dealings with the private contractors that led to the decrepit, perilous state of the MRT3 today.
The group reiterated their demands for Abaya to resign. They also wanted to hold Pres. Noynoy Aquino III accountable. In an earlier statement, RILES Network said Aquino has failed to solve the long-standing problems in the MRT, which only worsened under his term. Citing how, under Aquino, the MRT made news not for improvements but for corruption cases, the commuter group condemned his refusal to study how the subsidy for MRT can be allocated wisely. Instead, they said, Aquino has contented himself with perennial calls for a fare increase, when creating a safe, efficient and affordable mass transport system is the mandate of the government.