House Speaker: MRT-3 manager should resign

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 7) ­—  As government scrambles to fix the chronic problems hounding the MRT, the House Speaker on Thursday called on its general manager to step down.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on the issues hounding the transportation sector, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) General Manager Rodolfo Garcia should resign.

"Alam mo, isa pang dapat mag-resign? 'Yung manager ng MRT," Alvarez said, referring to Garcia.

[Translation: You know who else should resign? The manager of the MRT.]

Even if the problems may have been inherited from a previous administration, he said this was no excuse for the frequent breakdowns of the MRT, which serves more than half a million people in Metro Manila each day.

"Isipin mo naman, araw-araw halos, nasisira," he added. "Mahigit isang taon na siya diyan, wala siyang ginagawa dun sa maintenance. Minsan, napanood ko sa TV, in-interview. Mukhang wala siyang kaalam-alam dun sa operation ng MRT."

[Translation: Can you believe that it breaks down almost everyday? He's been there for more than a year, but he hasn't done anything about the MRT's maintenance. I watched him in a TV interview once. It seems like he doesn't have a clue about the MRT's operation.]

The day before, Alvarez called on Land Transportation Office chief Edgar Galvante to resign due to the long-running delay in the distribution of license plates. Alvarez held the position of Transportation Secretary from January 2001 to July 2002 under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Read: House Speaker urges LTO chief to resign over unavailability of license plates

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Garcia, a former chief of the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group, as MRT general manager in March 2017.

CNN Philippines reached out to Garcia for comment, but he has yet to respond.

Gov't should handle MRT

The government should take over the MRT's operation and maintenance, Alvarez said.

"Bakit naman dun sa ibang bansa, let's say Singapore, Japan, ay gobyerno naman nagpapatakbo," he said. "Eh bakit maayos? 'Di ba natin kayang gawin 'yun?"

[Translation: Why is it that in other countries, let's say Singapore or Japan, the government is the one running the rail line. How come it is efficient? Can't we do that, too?]

Alvarez warned that moves to privatize the MRT could lead to higher fares.

"Normally, yung mga rails na 'yan, hindi 'yan kumikita. Talagang sinu-subsidize operations niyan ng gobyerno para dun sa mga tao. Eh ngayon, kung ilagay mo sa private 'yan, hindi mo mapipigilan yung pag-akyat ng pamasahe," he said.

[Translation: Normally, railways do not make money. The government has to subsidize operations for the benefit of the commuters. But if you put it into private control, you will not be able to stop the increase in fares.]

On November 6, the government took over the MRT's maintenance from Korean group Busan Universal Rail Inc. due to the company's alleged failure to operate the railway efficiently.

Read: DOTr: Gov't to take over MRT maintenance

The Transportation Department said the MRT's original maintenance provider, Japanese firm Sumitomo Corporation, is expected to handle the rail line's maintenance again by as early as May 2018.

Read: DOTr: New MRT-3 maintenance provider could start work by April 2018

From January 2016 to Nov. 29. 2017, there were 908 glitches on the MRT.

The glitches range from technical problems resulting in passengers being unloaded to the decoupling of two northbound MRT trains on Nov. 16, which resulted to around 140 passengers walking on the tracks for 10 minutes.

Read: Passengers walk from Ayala to Buendia stations after MRT train detaches