Gross negligence on the part of the Philippine National Railway caused a train to derail in Makati City last Wednesday, result ing in the injury to at least 30 people, according to the Train Riders Network.
“We believe that the root cause of the derailment is due to the decades of government neglect of the PNR. The line receives very minimal investment and subsidies from the national government. Most of the funds made available barely cover the operation of the line, leaving no funds for expansion, modernization and rehabilitation and resulting in it’s current motley state,” said James Relativo, TREN spokesman.
Relativo said while the PNR sought a P11.1 billion budget from the government last year to repair trains and upgrade facilities along its dilapidated Bicol Line, the government only gave the line a measly P2.2 billion for its budget for year 2015.
He added the Department of Transportation and Communication estimated the cost of full rehabilitation of the PNR at P300 billion.
DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya announced last year that they are going to let the private sector fund the P300-billion rehabilitation of the PNR.
“Lack of government funding and continued neglect resulted in the deteriorating quality of services, overcrowding of coaches, and a plethora of safety issues. What is apparent, however, is the state’s abandonment of their obligation and the contribution of privatization to the incident,” Relativo said.
At present, the agency plans to double the PNR train fares to generate much needed revenue.
Last Wednesday, Train 1507 was carrying about 300 passengers on its way to Alabang in Muntinlupa City when the incident happened between the stations of Edsa-Magallanes and Nichols in Taguig City around 4 p.m.
The front and middle coaches of the train were reportedly tilted between 45 and 60 degrees while the last coach remained on track.
The PNR formed a team of engineers to investigate the incident and found two possible angles, which they said, could be the reasons for the derailment –pilferage of the rail’s fastening system and rail expansion due to heat.
The team is looking into the possibility that residents in the area stole track materials, which are then sold for profit.
Engineer Edwin Balongangay, division manager of PNR’s Engineering Department, said the rail’s fastening system, including two fishplates and three track bolts, totals to about 16 kilos of metal, which cost P235, equivalent to 5 kilos of rice.
There is also a possibility that heat expands and deforms the shape of the rails which caused the derailment, according to the PNR engineers.
Relativo said the incident was not the first time to happen involving Metro Manila railway system train.
He cited the August 2014 case of a southbound Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) train that crashed through its barrier in Taft Avenue station in Pasay City where at least 10 people were injured.
“Hindi pa ba tayo natuto? We demand a thorough investigation on the matter,” said Relativo. “We call on all passengers and concerned citizens to ensure that the government fulfills it’s mandates and obligations. We demand a safe, efficient, and accessible mass railway system.”
The state-owned PNR operates the 28 kilometer-long line system, one of the alternative mode of transportations for students and low wage earners, which carries around 40,000 to 50,000 passengers daily.
It also operates the Bicol railway system, which is presently under rehabilitation in preparation for the resumption of the Bicol Express run to Naga City in Camarines Sur province, and eventually to the southern terminal in Legazpi City in Albay.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito is pushing for a measure to revitalize and upgrade the PNR operations by way of revising certain provisions of its charter.
While the PNR’s corporate life was extended for another 50 years on June 16, 2014, Ejercito said it continues to run a “loss-leader” operation, which means the more trips the train runs, the more losses it incur.
He attributed his situation to PNR’s purely manual operations and its aged and obsolete train system, equipment and facilities. These have been resulting in poor operating potentials and high leakage rate.
Ejercito said for the first half of 2014, the PNR incurred P85,464,170.00 cash deficit which translated to a monthly loss of P13,244,028.00 while transporting 12,240,498 passengers on its Tutuban to Sta. Rosa/Calamba commuter line and Naga/Sipocot Commuter Line.