VJ Bacungan  | CNN Philippines | September 19, 2017

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) blamed the numerous problems with the Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3) this week on poor service by maintenance provider, Busan Rails.

The MRT-3 unloaded passengers 17 times since Monday due to technical problems, forcing thousands of irate commuters to find other means of transport.

"Ang karaniwang mga dahilan ay tulad din ng dahilan noong mga nakaraang taon at ito ay may kinalaman sa mga traction motors," DOTr Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez told CNN Philippines' "Balitaan" on Friday.

[Translation: The typical reasons are the same reasons from last year and these are related to the traction motors.]

Some 500,000 people take the MRT-3 daily. This is projected to go up to 800,000 by 2019.

Unlike older trains, which use a locomotive to move the train cars, electric trains like the MRT use traction motors attached to each car for propulsion.

"Ang pangalawang dahilan dito at madalas nagiging dahilan, signalling system," Chavez added. "At pangatlong dahilan dito ay yung pinto, hindi maayos. At ang pakiusap namin sa maintenance service provider ay dito sila mag-concentrate."

[Translation: The second reason, which is often the cause of problems, is the signalling system. And the third reason is the door, which malfunctions. Our request to the maintenance service provider is to concentrate on these three issues.]

Busan Rails -- whose three-year maintenance contract with the DOTr for the MRT-3 expires in January 2019 -- said in July that the system's problems are caused by the poor condition of the rails and design flaws.

Chavez denied that the glitches with the MRT-3 have become the "new normal," saying that these problems have long been clear to Busan Rails.

"Hindi siya dapat maging normal, sapagkat maliwanag ang mga causes at alam natin at alam na nila," he said. "Kaya lang tayo nagkakaganitong sitwasyon dahil napatunayan na natin noong tayo umupo, mag-iisang taon na, hindi nabibili ang tamang mga piyesa."

[Translation: This is not supposed to be normal because the causes are clear to us and clear to them. The only reason we're ending up in this situation is because we've proven that since we took office a year ago, the right parts haven't been purchased yet.]

Chavez also said the government has cut almost P60 million from the payment to Busan Rails because it could not provide proof that it had bought parts.

He said Busan Rails must buy parts for the MRT-3 or its contract will be terminated.

"Kung saka-sakaling magkatotoo ito, in the next three months, pwede magkaroon na tayo ng bidding," Chavez said. "In the meantime, ready ang gobyerno na i-takeover ang maintenance dito sapagkat nagawa na natin ito sa LRT."

[Translation: If ever Busan's contract is terminated, we could conduct bidding in the next three months. In the meantime, the government is ready to take over the MRT-3's maintenance, similar to what we have been doing with the LRT.]

No more lines?

In May, the DOTr said that long lines at the MRT-3 would disappear by December 2017.

The MRT-3 runs only 20 three-coach trains at most during peak hours due to power constraints. This is despite the arrival this year of 48 additional coaches from a 2014 deal between Chinese company Dalian Locomotive Corp. and the Aquino administration.

Officer-in-charge for Operations Deo Leo Manalo said in a Senate hearing that once the MRT-3's power supply is augmented, the DOTr will increase MRT capacity by additing another coach to its trains on top of the five new trains.

However, Chavez told lawmakers on Wednesday that the coaches may be returned to China if a third-party evaluator finds these unsuitable for Metro Manila.

The DOTr is also pushing for a P355 billion Metro Manila subway, which is expected to start construction in early 2018.

The 25-kilometer subway will run from Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to the FTI complex in Taguig City, with an additional line extending towards the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminals in Pasay City.

The subway is expected to cut the trip from Quezon City to Taguig to half an hour. The project, which is slated to be completed in 2022, can take 350,000 commuters daily.