MANILA (UPDATE) - Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya hopes new coaches for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), which the government has gotten a lot of flak for, will help the administration in next year's elections.
Abaya made the statement to reporters as he inspected the prototype for 48 new coaches the government has ordered from China.
He said the coaches will be tested in November and December, after German-made parts arrive. He said deliveries can start in January, at the rate of 3 to 4 coaches per month.
"The primary objective is to improve the MRT service as soon as possible," Abaya said. "I believe with these new trains, commuters will start feeling the difference in the first or second quarter. If this helps, voters remembers us at the polls. It is an added bonus."
"This project, together with the infrastructure projects just approved by NEDA [National Economic and Development Authority] are prime examples of why Daang Matuwid should continue," Abaya said. "Daang Matuwid," which means straight path, is one of the administration's mantras.
Abaya expressed confidence the deliveries will continue even if the administration loses the presidency next year. The purchase is being questioned in court by the Sobrepena group, which built the MRT in the 1990s and still retains a stake in it.
"It would be political suicide for any administration to stop this purchase," he said. "It is a safe bet this will continue regardless of who wins."
A transport expert, meanwhile, said the MRT is more likely to turn voters off the administration.
"Yes, the voters will remember, they will remember not to vote for them," Rene Santiago, an engineer who has been part of four Metro Manila transport plans from 1975 to 2013, including one funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said in a phone interview.
"They are only talking about a prototype, delivery is still uncertain, there are so many other factors to consider, like repairs of train stations, rails, signalling system."
"I'm sorry, the DOTC [National Economic and Development Authority] is a failure," he said. "Daang Matuwid? More like Daang Bolero."