By Christina Mendez | The Philippine Star | September 21, 2015

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Grace Poe yesterday urged officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to adhere to its commitment to the public that the rehabilitation of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system will be finished on schedule.

 Poe, chairman of the subcommittee on transportation, said the Senate would resume hearings on the MRT issue before the end of the month.

She said thousands of commuters spend hours every day waiting their turn to get on the dilapidated, overloaded trains. The passengers are counting on the MRT rehabilitation to ease their woes, Poe said.

“The DOTC cannot bungle this. It should ensure that the new trains will be delivered on time, that the elevators and escalators will work, and even the toilets will be functional,” she said.

“Our workforce, a majority of whom take mass transport, should not have to endure the current conditions longer than they should,” she added.

Around 650,000 people take the MRT daily, almost twice its capacity of 350,000 passengers.

Poe earlier inspected the prototype MRT coaches, which arrived from China recently.

According to the DOTC, some P4.2 billion is needed for the rail system’s three-year maintenance.

The government has released P1.2 billion for rehabilitation; P50 million for procurement of 12 elevators for MRT stations; P90 million for one lot OCS Road-Rail Vehicle for maintenance activities; P167 million for one lot Rail Grinder to repair damaged MRT tracks and P900 million for the total replacement and upgrade of the signaling system to meet capacity extension.

“That is P1.2 billion in taxpayers’ money that the DOTC is spending. Commuters are well within their rights to demand that what needs to be fixed will be fixed, and the repairs and upgrades will be done on time,” Poe said. 

She reminded the DOTC to meet the timeline it presented during the Senate hearings, which included rail replacement and signaling system upgrade, September 2015; supply of traction motors, October 2015; radio communications upgrade, November 2015; supply of OCS road-rail vehicle and supply of grinding machine rail vehicle, May 2016; total replacement of signaling system, October 2016; conveyance facilities, January 2016; general train overhaul, June 2017.

She urged the public to continue reporting the glitches in MRT operations as well as their experience while riding the trains.

“Commuter feedback is essential in the government’s response to the mass transport problems,” she said.

A survey conducted by Poe’s office early this year showed that non-functioning toilets, unclean restrooms and lack of cubicles were among the complaints of MRT commuters.

In February, the MRT management promised to fix the toilets by late 2015 or early 2016. It said P5 million has been allotted for the installation of elevated water tanks in all MRT stations.

Poe, who has declared her presidential bid in 2016, vowed to allocate at least seven percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product for infrastructure development, particularly roads and railways, if she becomes president.