DOTC liable for MRT crash: lawyer

Posted at 08/15/14 12:38 PM

MANILA - The Department of Transportation and Communications should be held liable for the crash of a defective Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 train at the Pasay City station, a lawyer said Friday.

Attorney David Narvasa, spokesman of MRT Holdings, said MRT-3 was the product of a build-lease-transfer agreement between Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) and DOTC in 1997. MRT Holdings owns 100 percent of MRTC.

Under the agreement, the MRTC will build the whole system but it is the DOTC that operates. "We are paid lease payments, like rental fees, by the DOTC," he said in an interview on ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda.

He said that for the first 10 years, Japanese firm Sumitomo Corp. was in charge of the maintenance of the MRT system before the contract was taken over by PH Trams and then Autre Porte Technique Global Inc. (APT). The APT contract is set to expire on Sept. 5.

In the interview, Narvasa said MRTC did not participate in the grant of the maintenance contract to APT.

He said the company has been writing letters to DOTC to conduct a technical assessment and audit of the whole MRT-3 system.

"Kumusta ba yung mga bagon? Kumusta ba yung mga riles? The whole MRT system is designed to last for 25 years. If it is maintained properly, it can last more than that. In other countries, train systems last for 30-40 years," he said.

Asked who is liable for Wednesday's crash that injured 36 people, he said: "[The liability] ay nasa nag-o-operate. I believe it is the DOTC."

The Light Rain Transit Authority earlier said the defective train crashed after it uncoupled with another train that was pushing it towards Pasay Taft station. Authorities are finding out if the crash was caused by human error or mechanical failure.

A former maintenance contractor of MRT-3 earlier said there is an urgent need to upgrade the system and reassess its rails.

Rolf Bieri, rail consultant of Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corp., said the MRT's rails are already showing signs of "metal fatigue." He said the mileage on the coaches' motors is already extended beyond its normal capacity.

In effect, this has forced the government to spend more on maintenance work, he said.

"Honestly speaking, line 3 needs a lot of improvement. Right now, the trains [are] running safe on quick stop solutions implemented by the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications). But there are urgent works that need to be done," he said.

Bieri also warned MRT officials that there should also be additional power sources for the 48 coaches which will be added to the system starting next year.

"The rail and rail support has to be upgraded. I would even suggest to do some examination of the superstructure of the whole system. Then right now, nobody knows how much these vibrations have affected the solid foundation," he said.