MANILA, Philippines - Senator Nancy Binay on Tuesday blasted the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) for using passengers as "guinea pigs" in its "risky experiment" to take over the maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3)

In a statement, Binay said DOTC Secretary Emilio "Jun" Abaya should recall the "experiment" as the DOTC supposedly has no competence to maintain the line on its own.

"It's a risky experiment, using commuters as guinea pigs," Binay said. "Do they even have people who are technically competent to handle the maintenance?"

The DOTC said it has formed a "shadow team" composed of MRT and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) personnel to work alongside APT Global in maintaining MRT trains.

The plan was made after DOTC extended the contract of APT Global until November 5 while it looks for other bidders in a P2.25-billion three-year maintenance contract for MRT.

Binay said the DOTC has not demonstrated that it can operate the MRT.

"Marami nang sablay sa operasyon ng MRT, at araw-araw nagdudusa ang ating mga kababayan. Mahaba na po ang litanya ng commuting public, mula sa hindi binabasa ng machine ang ticket, sirang elevators at escalators, hanggang sa mga technical problems ng mismong trains," she said.

(“MRT operations have been botched and every day our people are suffering. The list of complaints of the commuting public is long, from the machines not reading the tickets to busted elevators and escalators, to technical problems involving the trains.”)

Binay said the planned DOTC takeover of the MRT maintenance might also present legal problems for the government.

The senator again criticized the DOTC for allegedly surrendering its P4.5-billion appropriation for additional MRT coaches. Binay claims thd funds were transferred to the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

More lawyers than engineers

Binay said the DOTC should consider getting people with more technical capability and experience for its upper management positions.

"Marami na kasing (There are many) lawyers sa upper management ng DOTC. It's high time that they get engineers or people with technical experience in running transportation systems in the undersecretary or assistant secretary positions," she said.

The senator also suggested that the DOTC appoint a permanent administrator. MRT Director for Operations Renato San Jose currently handles the MRT's operations, but only as an OIC.

Around 500,000 passengers ride the MRT every day, way above its design capacity of 350,000.