Paolo Romero | | November 21, 2016

MANILA, Philippines – Secretary Arthur Tugade was warned yesterday that some Department of Transportation officials responsible for forging apparently onerous contracts causing the traffic crisis are still holding positions.

The presence of these officials from the previous administration might jeopardize government efforts to swiftly deal with the crisis, Senate committee on public services chairman Grace Poe told radio station dzBB, without giving names.

"The same people who entered into contracts that were detrimental to the public, and behind wrong policies are still there, like one general manager," she said.

Poe said she will ask Tugade in the committee's next hearing on Thursday on bills seeking to grant President Duterte emergency powers to address the transport crisis.

Officials of the previous administration canceled the supply and maintenance contract of the Japanese Sumitomo Corp. – which had been the contractor for the Metro Rail Transit 3 since it started operations – in favor of an unknown firm, she added.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito also questioned the wisdom of contracting the services of a firm with no track record to maintain the MRT-3.

'No change since Abaya'

Meanwhile, the MRT Corp., the private owners of MRT-3, has warned that poor maintenance continues to pose a threat to the lives of the riding public.

MRT Corp. director Rafael Perez de Tagle said the poor condition of the rail tracks has caused extreme stress on the rail system.

"The reports of cracks in the wheels of the MRT are alarming and constitute a serious threat to the lives of commuters," he said.

Perez de Tagle said under Sumitomo, at least 80 percent of tracks were available at all times.

"Today, it's 80 percent excuses and misinformation," he said.

Perez de Tagle said MRT-3 general manager Roman Buenafe refused the request of MRT Corp. to inspect the tracks.

"What are they hiding?" he said.

"Nothing has changed since the time of (former transportation secretary Joseph Emilio) Abaya," he added.

"The possibility of derailment has not been addressed. Just like under the past administration, instead of addressing the problems, the maintenance provider is feeding the public misinformation to save face, at the risk of the lives of commuters."

Perez de Tagle cited a news interview with a representative of the current maintenance operator giving the excuse that the MRT could not increase speed to the required 60 kilometers per hour during peak hours because the system was allegedly designed not as light rail vehicles but as street cars.

"That's ridiculous," he said. "When Sumitomo was maintaining the MRT, it ran at 60 kph and 20 sets of trains were operated at the peak hour in the morning and in the afternoon."