By Author | The Manila Times | August 10, 2015

MORE people are saying that this is a matter of extreme urgency and concern to our country.

 Unless the question is speedily answered and resolved, the national government could find itself decapitated. The church of the Straight path will lose its high priest.

This is because President BS Aquino has put his life on the line in the long–delayed rehabilitation project for LRT1 and LRT2 of the Light Rail Transit system. Feeling confident about the project, the President as pledged to have himself run over by the trains of the LRT, if the mass transit system is not rehabilitated by the end of the year. Consider how he can be obsessive and stubborn, we are concerned that he may unstable enough to do it if the time should come when he must redeem his words.

He needs help to find more sensible solutions to our mass transport woes.

We have learned on good authority that the LRT rehabilitation project at this point is nowhere close to meeting Aquino’s deadline. Indeed, we are told that no work is actually going on at this time.

The problem consists of the fact that the sum of P1.314-billion has been allocated from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) for the repair and maintenance of Light Rail Transit 1 and 2. The amount has already been released in full but it has not been used for its designated purpose by the government.

This is the finding and revelation of the Commission on Audit in a report dated June 5, 2015 that should deserve appropriate publicity in the media, so the frustrated riding public will understand why nothing is happening to cure their frustration.

In its 87-page report, COA revealed the following:

“Despite the full release of the P1.314 billion Stimulus Fund in January 2014, the projects lined up for the rehabilitation of LRTA Lines 1 and 2 have not been implemented due to several project revisions, thus defeating the purpose of the grant of the Stimulus Fund, which was to accelerate economic growth, and also delaying the delivery of improved railway services to the riding public.”

In addition, the COA questioned a decision of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to engage in the procurement and bidding of the equipment needed for the repair, instead of the LRTA, the implementing agency.

Accordingly, COA has ordered the DOTC and LRTA to explain the cause of delays in the multi-year projects of LRTA for System Lines 1 and 2, which have already undergone several revisions.

Alarmingly, the Project Status Report as of March 31, 2015 showed that most of the projects were only in the process of preparation of the Terms of Reference.

“After more than a year since the fund was released, there was not a single significant accomplishment involving rehabilitation of System Lines 1 and 2,” COA pointed out.

We can see from this, how sorry really is the state of mass transport in the metropolis. Beyond the state of the MRT and LRT, we have a transportation department that does not know how to do its job. In the LRT situation, the problem has nothing to do with funding, because the fund has been allocated and released. And yet the project has moved nowhere after more than a year

The purpose of the Stimulus Fund, as justified by the administration was to provide relief and efficient railway service to the riding public. That is why it was approved.

COA could not understand why, with the fund already made available for more than a year, the projects were still not moving forward.

The reason why, let us speak plainly, is lack of leadership at the DOTC, and incompetent management at the LRTA.

This is a situation that clearly needs immediate correction.

While the administration has only 11 months left in its term, that is not a good reason for slackening in coming up with an availing solution to the problem of the LRT system. It would be a copout if the problem is just passed on to the next administration, which will come to office in July 2016.

One decision, which many have been advocating because of the many snafus at the DOTC is the immediate firing and resignation of DOTC secretary Joseph Abaya, who long ago served out his welcome. The man clearly knows nothing about transportation. He has nothing more to contribute other than more problems to the national transport situation.

If the man is so bereft of honor that he will not resign, President Aquino himself must recognize how the very stability of his government is endangered by allowing Abaya to remain while he does nothing to solve outstanding problems in his department and area of responsibility.

The president should look at the problem in practical terms: Secretary Abaya is impeached daily by the state of our mass transit system in Metro Manila. The administration is indicted by losig hold of whatever remains of its support in Metro Manila.

In a situation as dire as this, it is the appointing power that must provide the solution and act to put things to right.

To use a popular idiom in American English, it is truly time now to throw Secretary Abaya under the bus.

This is better than seeing President Aquino run over by the LRT.

Better to lose a secretary than a president–even a bad one like BSA.