MANILA (UPDATE) – Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya said he is willing to shut down the Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3 system if needed to allow the rail system to catch up on maintenance work.
“If indeed warranted, ipapatigil natin to catch up and do maintenance works. I will drop everything under safety,” he said on Thursday.
MRT operations were recently disrupted and thousands of passengers forced to take alternate transportation when the signaling system detected broken rails.
According to MRT officer-in-charge Renato San Jose, they have only three rails left in the depot.
If another incident of broken rail occurs, the system’s operations department may have no choice but to stop the operation.
MRT Holdings presented on Thursday an inventory of spare parts, a portion of which is apparently unaccounted for.
The inventory shows former maintenance provider Sumitomo turning over 86 pieces of rails to current provider PH Trams.
MRTH, however, said it lost track of the inventory when PH Trams took over last year.
MRTH spokesman David Narvasa said they recommended a rehabilitation of the railway this year, but the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) didn’t respond.
Narvasa also criticized the failure of the maintenance provider in maintaining the system and buying spare parts.
"There would be no talk of shutdown if the trains were being maintained properly," Narvasa said.
"Can you imagine 550,000 passengers scrambling to look for alternative means of transportation if there is a shutdown, especially during peak hours?" he added.
The government is looking to buy out ownership of the MRT to take full control of operations and maintenance, but Narvasa believes a buyout “will not benefit the public right now."
"The buyout will not be used to fix the existing system or to buy new trains or rails," he said.
He added that the private owners of the MRT have yet to receive any communication from the DOTC regarding the buyout.
"We do not understand why DOTC refuses to speak with us," he said.
Abaya earlier said during a Senate hearing that the DOTC is not obligated to speak to the private owners of the MRT, only to MRT Corp., represented by Development Bank of the Philippines' Tomas de Leon. -- With a report from Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News