MANILA — Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian urged the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) on Monday to address first the safety concerns of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3 before going full-blast in the construction of the MRT extension to Bulacan.
Gatchalian made the appeal a week after the government green-lit financial guarantees for the MRT-7 elevated railway line going to Bulacan from Quezon City, which will be mostly funded by official development assistance (ODA) loan from the Japanese government.
Gatchalian, who is a senior vice chair of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development, said the DOTC should prioritize finding and applying solutions to the MRT-3’s malfunctions to ensure the safety of commuters.
The lawmaker stood firm in his recommendation for DOTC to hire a private firm to oversee the train’s operations, saying it will be more efficient in terms of management as it will have to follow a strict set of performance targets or else be penalized or replaced by another company.
He said such business model is already being used by state transportation agencies in Europe and the United States.
“If the MRT-3’s safety issues will not be taken care of before the line is stretched to Bulacan province, the government will only be cooking up future mishaps or worse, another disaster,” he said. “There is an urgent need to change the MRT management and improve maintenance.”
The MRT-3 made a series of reported glitches this year starting last March, the biggest of which was the ramming of a wayward coach through a barrier at the Taft Ave. Station in Pasay City, injuring over 30 people, last month.
“The DOTC should make sure to select a competent maintenance service provider firm this time considering that PHP 2.25 billion worth of taxpayers’ money will be shelled out for the three-year maintenance contract,” Gatchalian pointed out.
The Valenzuela lawmaker also asked his fellow government officials, especially those from the DOTC, to ride the MRT-3 without VIP treatment on a rush-hour during Monday morning or Friday night so they can see for themselves the problems and difficulties being encountered by commuters on a daily basis.
“This will allow government officials to know the plight of the riding public and to understand their anger at how the government mismanages the country’s train systems,” he said.
Gatchalian rode the MRT-3 two months ago to see for himself the daily woes of commuters as he filed a House resolution calling for an inquiry over the train’s unsafe services.