MRT train crashes through barrier

Rainier Allan Ronda and Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) - August 14, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A defective train of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 rammed a concrete barrier of the Pasay City terminal then jumped off the tracks and stopped at the intersection of Taft Avenue and EDSA yesterday, injuring at least 36 passengers and damaging several passing vehicles.

Rescuers removed injured passengers from the front coach of the stalled train and took them to nearby hospitals.

There were no fatalities but the accident caused a huge traffic jam in the area, stalling the northbound lane of EDSA.

Eleven victims, including a six-month-old baby, were rushed to the San Juan de Dios Hospital, while 20 others were brought to Pasay City General Hospital and the rest to the Manila Sanitarium.

“Most of the victims suffered minor bruises and fracture,” a rescue worker said.

Michael Arthur Sagcal, spokesman for the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), said initial reports showed the derailed train had lost power between the Magallanes and Taft stations and was being pushed by another train towards the Taft Ave. terminal.

“The derailed train initially stalled between the Magallanes and Taft stations and, following railway standard operating procedures, had to be pushed by the next incoming train. The two trains were coupled or linked together, but along the way, the coupling disconnected,” he explained.

After the train was disconnected, Sagcal said the defective train derailed and overshot the terminal’s platform on Taft Ave.

Half of the detached train continued rolling towards the steel railing,

hitting a passing motorcycle and a car, and toppled an electric post before it stopped.

The train operator ordered the passengers to forcibly open the doors and the passengers jumped out.

“We are still investigating the incident,” Pasay police chief Senior Superintendent Florencio Ortilla told The STAR.

He said the train toppled concrete posts, spraying debris and damaging cars in the crowded intersection.

The MRT-3 resumed operations past 5 p.m.

Lawyer Winston Ginez, chairman of the Land Transportation Regulatory and Franchising Board, urged bus operators to ferry stranded MRT passengers.

“We are running Southbound and Northbound but expect delay approaching Taft Ave. because we are utilizing single track in reversing,” MRT-3 said in an advisory posted on its Twitter account.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya has ordered an investigation of the accident.

Sagcal said Abaya went to the scene of the MRT-3 accident after a meeting in Malacañang.

“The secretary has instructed MRT-3 to assist the injured passengers right away while he inspects the site and gets a full report on the incident,” Sagcal said.

“Humingi po kami ng paumanhin sa mga pasahero (We apologize to the passengers), we have no excuse,” said Abaya as he assured the injured victims that the government will give them assistance.

Abaya said the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is the insurer of MRT and the agency will cover all hospital expenses.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the safety of the passengers must be ensured.

He said a thorough investigation should be conducted to find out the reason why the train derailed.

Coloma said he did not have information if Abaya was summoned to Malacañang by President Aquino because of the accident.

Abaya had no scheduled meeting with Aquino but presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the transport chief was en route to the site of the MRT accident, “coming from Malacañang” at around 6 p.m.

Takeover of MRT

The government is pursuing a complete takeover of the mass rail transit system along EDSA.

Abaya earlier said the DOTC hopes to forge a compromise agreement with the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MPIC) within the third quarter of the year.

MRTC owns the facilities of the 17-kilometer mass transit system along EDSA.

Infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) has rights over a 48 percent interest in MRTC after it entered into a cooperation agreement with the Sobrepeña-owned Fil-Estate Corp. in November 2010 regarding its interests and rights in Metro Rail Holdings Inc., Metro Rail Transit 2 Inc. and Monumento Rail Transit Corp.

On the other hand, government financial institutions Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) have an 80 percent interest but have no voting rights in the company.

MRTC filed an arbitration case in Singapore against the Philippine government in January 2009 due to failure to pay equity rentals in a timely manner.

In March last year, President Aquino signed Executive Order No. 126 stating that DOTC and the Department of Finance (DOF) should buy out MRT-3 from MRTC pursuant to a build-lease-transfer agreement.

In fact, the P56-billion budget for the complete government takeover of MRT-3 is available as it was included by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in the P2.265-trillion 2014 national budget.

The proposed takeover would help Landbank and DBP unload their interest in MRT-3 after receiving several warnings from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas regarding its investment in the mass transport system.

The proposed government takeover will result in billions of pesos in savings for taxpayers, who provide subsidies mainly to cover the 15 percent return on investment guaranteed to MRTC. The government shells out about P7 billion worth of subsidy for MRT-3 operations. – With Lawrence Agcaoili, Aurea Calica, AP

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