A Light Rail Transit Authority official admitted Wednesday that the agency does not have a disaster recovery plan to deal with events such as the fire that forced the shutdown of three LRT 2 stations on Oct. 3.
“Sorry, sir, I don’t think we have one,” said Federico Canar, manager of the LRT Lines 1 and 2 Engineering Department, after Muntinlupa City Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon asked if there was a playbook to deal with such disasters.
Canar’s testimony was part of a hearing into the partial suspension of the LRT 2 conducted by the committee on transportation led by Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento.
Reacting to Canar’s admission, Biazon said this was “a glaring gap” for critical infrastructure, since any breakdown, manmade or natural, would cause “a lot of havoc.”
Hernando Cabrera, corporate board secretary of LRTA, said the agency’s board would check if this is included in the company’s risk management plan.
On the investigation into the fire, LRTA Deputy Administrator for Operations and Engineering Paul Chua said arson has been ruled out and that the Bureau of Fire Protection, which would issue the final assessment, is currently investigating whether the fire was due to a lightning strike or equipment failure.
At the start of the hearing, Sarmiento apologized to the commuting public for the suffering that the worsening traffic problem in Metro Manila has caused them on a daily basis.
Sarmiento emotionally asked for the public’s forgiveness over the heavy burden that their daily commute has brought them.
He said: “From the bottom of my heart, as the chairman of the committee on transportation, including the vice chairmen, the members of the committee on transportation, to include the members of the 18th
Congress chaired by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, we are asking for the people’s forgiveness for their suffering,” he said.
“You deserve better in life,” he added.
Sarmiento vowed that the government will find a solution to the mass transport problem in Metro Manila while he is the chairman of the House transportation panel.
“I am a little emotional because I can see the suffering of our constituents. A never-ending suffering and I wonder why, despite a P4.1-trillion budget duly passed by this House, we cannot even have the decency of an efficient mass public transportation system,” he said.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Wednesday denied suggestions that he was unaware of the “vexing daily commute” in Metro Manila, after drawing flak for declaring that there is no transportation crisis in the country.
Panelo, who also serves as President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, earlier dismissed the claim of militant group Bayan that there is a transportation crisis gripping the metropolis, after three of its railways bogged down last week.
“Just because I disagree with the leftist organization’s theory on the existence of a mass transport crisis does not mean that I am unaware of the vexing daily commute, as well as the burden caused by the worsening traffic conditions in Manila,” Panelo said in a statement.
“Had the critics and the nitpickers read the transcript of my remarks in the press briefing yesterday, they would have readily understood that when I said there is no mass transit crisis, I meant there is no mass transit crisis simply because there is no mass transit paralysis,” he added.
Talk of a crisis came after LRT-2 suspended its operations from Oct. 3 to 7 after a fire caught one of its power transformers, forcing 200,000 daily passengers to find alternative modes of transport.
The LRT 2 normally accommodates passengers through its 11 stations running from Santolan in Pasig to Recto in Manila.
Anonas, Katipunan and Santolan stations will also be closed for at least nine months for repairs.
Last week, the LRT 1 also halted trips due to mechanical issues, the same day that an MRT 3 train stalled between Magallanes and Ayala stations, forcing scores of passengers to walk along the rail tracks.
Panelo attributed the woes to “inherited” problems from the previous administration—even though President Rodrigo Duterte has been in office for three years now.
He also blamed the lawmakers for supposedly blocking emergency powers requested by President Duterte at the start of his term to solve the traffic problem.
Panelo said the Duterte administration is currently rehabilitating the MRT 3 and building the Metro Manila Subway, MRT 7, Common Station, LRT 1 Cavite Extension and PNR Clark to ease the traffic situation.
He also assured the public that the government would not allow the daily suffering of the commuters to be “constant and permanent.”
“Everyone who commutes or drives suffers every day but solutions to solve it are not insuperable, and this administration is doing its best to provide not just immediate but also long-term solutions,” Panelo said.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Wednesday echoed the official line that there is no transport crisis. In a TV interview, Tugade disputed the use of the word “crisis” to describe the current transport situation.
The Labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno on Wednesday kept up the attack on Panelo, however, challenging him to commute so he could experience the plight of commuters.
In a statement, KMU secretary-general Jerome Adonis claimed that Panelo was unaware of the traffic woes of commuters and the condition of the modes of transportation in Metro Manila.
Panelo on Tuesday denied there was a crisis and said commuters should simply adjust to the situation by allotting extra time for their travel.