By | June 20, 2015 

MANILA, Philippines -- A scientists’ organization called for the immediate nationalization of the rundown Metro Rail Transit system, saying allowing a private firm to operate the commuter train line was an “abandonment of … responsibility” that “is the primary factor” in frequent breakdowns and accidents.

In a statement released Saturday, the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, or AGHAM, said the Department of Transportation and Communications itself has admitted that service interruptions have been getting worse, currently averaging once a week compared to every 11 days in 2013.

AGHAM also blasted what it called “the State's disregard for the commuter” as seen in minuscule investment in mass transport.

“Rail only gets 7.33 percent (P16.9 billion) of the 2015 transportation budget, translating to about 0.12 percent of the Philippine GDP,” the group noted.

In contrast, “Malaysia plans to put in at least P385 billion (worth) or 2.7 percent of its GDP on rail investments for this year. Spain, Russia, and France spend at least 0.20 percent of their GDP on rail investment,” it added.

This has led to the country’s dismal ranking in rail quality -- 80th of 143 countries in the World Economic Forum's global survey. “In contrast, Malaysia ranked 12th, Indonesia, 21st, Vietnam, 52nd, and Thailand 74th,” AGHAM said.

Aside from this, AGHAM, citing its own calculations, said government neglect for rail has led to “3.48 injuries for every 100 million passenger-miles” on the MRT, “compared to US trains with 0.7 injuries.”

“In other words, MRT passengers are five times more likely to get injured than US passengers. This is in spite of the fact that both MRT coaches and US light trains are roughly of the same age,” it pointed out.

But aside from physical injuries caused by accidents, AGHAM also pointed to the “slow, subtle and systemic harm inflicted” on the 600,000 commuters who take the MRT daily by “long lines, broken elevators, and delayed trains.”

From the optimum 20 trains needed to ferry so many commuters, the MRT has lately been able to field only around seven each day.

AGHAM also slammed the new MRT maintenance setup of the Department of Transportation and Communication, which divided the work into seven components bid out to different contractors.

Not only has the DOTC managed to bid out only four of the seven components, AGHAM also said the party-list Bayan Muna has bared that “one of the new contractors, Global Epcom Services, has the same incorporators as the infamous Global APT, the MRT's current maintenance provider.”

"The dire condition of the MRT necessitates a major overhaul and rehabilitation under direct government control. It should be nationalized immediately," the AGHAM statement quoted mechanical engineer Miguel Aljibe as saying.

In comparison, AGHAM said the government-run Light Rail Transit, which operates two lines, has performed way better than the MRT.

The group noted that, although the LRT Authority “subcontracts maintenance work, it nevertheless possesses in-house expertise and equipment,” leading to “only 11 major injuries resulting from LRT-1 malfunctions in the past 12 years.”