John Paolo Bencito and Macon Ramos-Araneta,  April 1, 2016

The Department of Transportation and Communications failed to meet its March 31 target date for a commercial run of two newly-procured coaches for the Metro Rail Transit-3.

After promising the public that the new coaches will ease the lives of more than 500,000 people who ride the MRT-3 daily, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya justified the delay by saying the DoTC cannot rush the tests required before the new vehicles can be put into actual operation.

“We tried. We wanted it available sooner, but again, we cannot rush it just so we could meet the deadline,” Abaya said in a television interview.

The two new light rail vehicles were delivered to the country by Chinese manufacturer Dalian Locomotives in December.

Abaya said that the train sets have only completed 3,009 kilometers—still short by almost 2,000 kilometers of the required 5,000-kilometer run before it can be used commercially.

In January, Abaya promised passengers to expect the new coaches up and running “by the end of the first quarter of 2016.”

The delivery of all 48 new train cars, which are projected to increase MRT-3’s capacity to over 800,000 daily, is scheduled to be completed by January 2017.

Former MRT-3 general manager Al Vitangcol earlier claimed that the Chinese-build coaches delivered were “engineless.”

Meanwhile, vice presidential candidate and Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano challenged President Benigno Aquino III to prove that there are no sacred cows in government by firing Abaya and Land Transportation Office chief Roberto Cabrera.

“There should be no sacred cows. The ordinary employees of these government agencies have been in pitiful condition for the past years due to several tirades and criticisms from the public. But the problems are really with the officials of these agencies,” Cayetano said.

“From special screws, overcharging of non-delivered stickers, late license plates and no available driver’s license, frequent MRT breakdowns, abandoned license plates at Customs, and now stolen plate sheets? If there’s still some delicadeza and command responsibility left in Abaya and Cabrera, I demand that they immediately vacate their posts and let more capable individuals do their jobs,” Cayetano added.

Cayetano was referring to the reported disappearance of some P4 million worth of license plate sheets from an LTO facility during the Holy Week break.

“They allowed the materials for making these plates be stolen despite the fact that LTO failed to issue license plates. Their incompetence knows no bounds,” the senator said.