By PRINCE GOLEZ
MANILA — The Senate was urged to investigate the “poorly maintained” operation of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 line that was believed to have caused an accident on Wednesday.
MRT 3 overshot its tracks at the Taft Avenue Station on corner EDSA and Taft Avenue in Pasay City, injuring at least 38 train passengers.
This was the second time that MRT figured in an accident.
“In 2012, an MRT train set was decoupled while in transit to Santolan station from Cubao in Quezon City,” Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said.
“Why is this happening? What must be done? Let’s probe the existing maintenance contract of MRT 3, and everything else will follow,” he said.
According to Pimentel, the railway’s maintenance is not well-implemented.
The MRT management could not decide to whom to give the maintenance contract for three years, he said.
“They were forced to go on a month-to-month procurement of capital spares and consumables that led to the cannibalization of some parts of down trains,” he said.
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) asked the government about P7 billion for the MRT in the proposed 2015 national budget.
Of the amount, P2 billion will be for MRT’s “operation and maintenance” and P5 billion for “subsidy of MRT 3.”
Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, however, said the Senate will still assess “what ails the MRT and what its cures will be.”
“I think we should also look if the public is getting value for the money it is giving MRT this year,” Recto said.
Meanwhile, a lawyer yesterday said the DOTC should be held liable for the crash of the “defective” MRT 3 train.
David Narvasa, spokesperson for MRT Holdings, said MRT 3 was the product of a build-lease-transfer agreement between Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) and DOTC in 1997. MRT Holdings owns 100 percent of MRTC.
Under the agreement, the MRTC will build the whole system but the DOTC will operate. “We are paid lease payments, like rental fees, by the DOTC,” Narvasa said in a television interview.
Asked who is liable for Wednesday’s crash, he said: “[The liability] ay nasa nag-o-operate. I believe it is the DOTC.”
The Light Rain Transit Authority earlier said the defective train crashed after it uncoupled with another train that was pushing it toward Pasay Taft station. Authorities are finding out if the crash was caused by human error or mechanical failure.
For the first 10 years, Japanese firm Sumitomo Corp. was in charge of the maintenance of the MRT system before the contract was taken over by PH Trams and then Autre Porte Technique Global Inc. (APT), he said. The APT contract is set to expire on Sept. 5.
Narvasa said MRTC did not participate in the grant of the maintenance contract to APT.
He said the company has been writing letters to DOTC to conduct a technical assessment and audit of the whole MRT-3 system.
“Kumusta ba yung mga bagon? Kumusta ba yung mga riles? The whole MRT system is designed to last 25 years. If it is maintained properly, it can last more than that. In other countries, train systems last for 30 to 40 years,” he said.
A former maintenance contractor of MRT-3 earlier said there is an urgent need to upgrade the system and reassess its rails. (With a report from abs-cbnnews.com/PN)