The Business Mirror Editorial | August 17, 2014

THE twin accidents that hit the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) of late are shimmering examples of how an insufficient upkeep program can ruin a perfectly good idea.

At least 36 persons, including a six-month-old baby, were injured when an MRT train derailed and went through a wall at the MRT 3’s Taft Station. The train involved in the accident ended up in Edsa. Most of the injured were women on the front coach of the train. Hapless pedestrians were also hit by debris.

In any mishap, the important question that comes to mind is budget. Is there enough funding to support maintenance and repairs? Safety of everyday commuters ought to have been the primary consideration in transport schemes like the MRT. The problem is, politics serve as stumbling blocks to improvement.

Let’s cut the issue down to easy reading. In 2012 the national government allotted P1.5 billion for the MRT 3 system maintenance and operation. By 2013, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) slashed the budget to nearly half, amounting to just P876 million. In 2014, it’s zilch.

Research will show that much of the mishaps that have happened run parallel to cuts in the budget.

Maintenance is a crucial part of railway operations.

From, a train and rail maintenance website: “Rolling stock is the most maintenance intensive part of the railway system and is the most vulnerable if maintenance is neglected. Reliability is the key to successful railway operation and maintenance should be the number one priority to ensure reliability is ongoing.

“If the equipment is not reliable, the railway is not workable. Good railway management will keep track of its performance and its failures and, by this means, ensure that problems are eliminated before they become endemic.”

The MRT serves over half-a-million commuters every day. During the tenure of former DOTC chief Manuel Roxas II, the state subsidy was cut from P6.92 billion in 2011 to only P4.29 billion in the proposed budget for 2012, putting maintenance work in jeopardy.

Why the budget was cut to less than bite size is anybody’s guess. This is what happens when politicians are appointed to positions that require the proficiency and know-how of experts rather than political maneuverings.

Some say the accident along Taft Avenue was a disaster waiting to happen. Very skeptical others say it’s a ruse, an attempt at misdirection so media will be lured away from political issues. The country’s sorry predicament has come down to this: politicians think the public cannot tell truth from lie.

That is where they are wrong.