Lawmaker seeks probe of MRT-3 ‘sabotage’

MANILA, Philippines — Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate urged the House committee on transportation yesterday to look into allegations of human error or sabotage as the cause of the recent decoupling of Metro Rail Transit 3 trains.

“This incident should be thoroughly investigated, especially the angle of sabotage or if it was just the poor maintenance that caused the accident. It is the safety of commuters that is at stake,” he said.

He said the transportation committee should ask MRT-3 management to secure all close-circuit television camera footage that could help in its inquiry.

“We are pushing the Duterte government to completely take over the rail systems and concentrate on making them safe, reliable, affordable and efficient,” he said.

Officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) made the allegations of human error or sabotage regarding Thursday’s incident, though they admitted that they were still searching for proof.

The DOTr has assembled a temporary maintenance team after it cancelled the P3.8-billion MRT-3 maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rails Inc. (BURI) for the latter’s alleged failure to properly maintain the EDSA rail line.

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BURI has denied the allegation.

Another congressman, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, said DOTr officials gave lawmakers and the public the impression that the cancellation of the maintenance contract “was the solution to MRT-3 problems.”

“It now appears that the breakdowns continue and are even getting worse. DOTr should expedite the privatization of all government-operated mass transit systems. The public cannot afford palliative solutions to the worsening MRT problems,” he said.

During the Aquino administration, then transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya told congressmen that “equity value buy-out” or takeover by the government of the EDSA rail system would resolve all the problems the facility was facing, including contentious ownership issues.

Upon his recommendation, then president Benigno Aquino lll included in the proposed 2015 national budget more than P50 billion for the buyout plan. The House of Representatives approved the appropriation, but the Senate struck it down.

Abaya said he based his funding estimate on the total amount of guaranteed rentals the government would pay the private owners of MRT-3 up to 2025, when such investors are bound to turn over the system to the state.

He said he and Aquino rejected offers from private investors to take over the system as that would have meant higher fares and a longer period for such investors to recover their investments.