'We will work towards a reduction in MRT glitches' — DOTC Sec. Abaya

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Commuters had trouble getting to and from their destinations last Friday (January 8) when a glitch in the signaling system of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 limited its operations.

During the morning rush hour on that same day, the MRT-3 also halted full-line operations for more than an hour due to a technical glitch.

Related: Signaling glitch limits MRT operations

In an interview on CNN Philippines' Headlines News on Tuesday (January 12), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio "Jun" Abaya said the problems occurred because of the train's signaling system.

"It was clearly a signaling problem. There was a drop in voltage, there was an uninterrupted power supply involved in there that was a result part of our obsolete signaling system," said Abaya.

The Transport secretary reasoned that the signaling system should have been replaced more than 10 years ago.

"The signaling system is definitely obsolete," he continued. "Even if you look back to the Systra audit in 2010, this was an audit on Sumitomo with the maintenance provider, wherein the maintenance provider was clearly handled by the facility owner — this was also an audit before President Aquino's term started, it was clear in their findings that the signaling system should have been replaced in mid-2000. It was really due (for replacement) and it wasn't done."

But Abaya assured that "there is a component of a complete replacement of the signaling system" in the DOTC's new maintenance contract.

Sabotage not primary focus of probe

According to MRT General Manager Roman Buenafe, the signaling system is currently under contract with the joint venture of German company Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik GmbH and Filipino firm Comm Builders & Technology Phils. Corp. (SBI-CB&T JV).

After Friday's glitches, Buenafe did not rule out the possibility of a sabotage of the train system's operations. There is an an ongoing investigation on the MRT glitches, but Abaya said sabotage is not the main focus of the probe and that they are looking at all the possibilities.

Related: We're probing sabotage, other angles in MRT glitches, says Abaya

"Just like any other credible and responsible investigation you look at all angles. There is no primary focus on sabotage — let's make it clear, it is not the primary focus of the investigation. The primary focus of the investigation is to find out the real causes, if sabotage is ruled out then that is well and good."

The Transport secretary said they will continue to deal with the German maintenance provider despite allegations of a sabotage.

"We should pay what is due to them, we should pay for the services rendered, we should pay for the parts delivered. We deal with them fairly and I think we should continue to engage them."

New maintenance provider

The department entered into a new maintenance contract on Thursday and Abaya believes getting the top-notch services of Busan Transport Corp. will help improve the operations of the MRT-3.

"This has been our goal from day one — to bring in a reputable world class longer-termed maintenance provider and if you see the record of Busan they have been maintaining rails in Korea since the 1980's. This itself is an achievement and I think it puts us in a very stable situation as to maintenance."

With regards to the glitches, Abaya said the department will do everything it can to lessen the technical problems of the train system.

"We will work towards a reduction in glitches," said Abaya. "But to promise there will be zero glitches is impossible — the best rail operators couldn't even promise that to the riding public."