Manila Standard | November 20, 2017

The MRT 3 maintenance contractor that was sacked for poor performance earlier this month denied Sunday that it was involved in a plot to sabotage the commuter train system after two cars decoupled last week.

On Nov. 16, the government terminated the maintenance contract of Busan Univeral Rail Inc.

The former maintenance provider of the MRT 3 on Sunday denied any involvement in an alleged sabotage plot that caused the decoupling of train cars last week.

Hundreds of MRT passengers were forced to walk to the next station after 2 trains detached from each other on Thursday, about a week after the government terminated the maintenance contract of BURI for performing poorly and for failing to put in service the contractually agreed number of trains.

Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez said Saturday that investigators, suspecting sabotage, had identified several persons who could be behind the decoupling of the trains. He also noted that a "messma card" that acted as a black box was missing on the train.

"We are not the persons of interest that Undersecretary Chavez was referring to," said BURI spokesman Charles Mercado in Filipino. "You know, they are the ones running the trains now."

Mercado also said Chavez was distracting the public from the real issue, which is the supposed design flaws that caused the decoupling, including the flimsy links between MRT coaches and their incapability to run at high speed.

The Transportation department on Sunday said it would not stop MRT operations despite the recent service disruptions and doubts about the train system's safety.

Transportation Assistant Secretary Elvira Medina told radio dzMM that they are studying the problems with the MRT and would submit a recommendation to Chavez in a week or two.

Medina said MRT service would continue while they complete their study.

On Thursday, Senator Grace Poe urged the Trade department to determine if they needed to shut down the MRT over safety concerns.

On Thursday, some 140 MRT passengers were asked to get off their train and walk on the tracks to the next station after two coaches decoupled. Two days earlier, a woman's arm was severed when she fell onto the tracks at the MRT-Ayala Station after she felt dizzy.

In an interview Saturday, President Rodrigo Duterte apologized for the inconvenience caused by the decoupling of the train cars last week, saying it might be sabotage.

"We offer no excuse, but apologies maybe to the public for the inconvenience caused," Duterte said.

The MRT carries about half a million passengers a day.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Bayan Muna, Tren and Agham said Sunday they would file a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against former Transport officials led by Joseph Abaya and executives of BURI in relation to the anomalous maintenance contract that allowed the train system to deteriorate.

"We will be filing a case of graft and violation of the procurement law against officials who approved a grossly disadvantageous contract that made the MRT 3 a milking-cow while millions of commuters suffered daily," the group said in a statement.