Poe: Lone running Dalian train no cause for celebration
While the Department of Transportation (DOTr) sees as promising the introduction of one of 18 Dalian trains in October to the regular fleet of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 system, Sen. Grace Poe remains unimpressed and even criticized the Chinese train manufacturer for using Filipinos as “guinea pigs.”
Addressing a road safety forum hosted by Vera Files and the World Health Organization, Poe said, “People have been asking me: What can you say now that one of the Dalian trains is working? Eh ‘di masaya (Well, I’m happy).”
“But remember this: we bought the trains in 2014. It’s 2018 now. Of the 16 trains, 48 coaches, only one train is running. Is this really something to be proud of?” she asked.
As head of the Senate public works committee, Poe led the inquiry into the allegedly anomalous P3.8-billion deal. There were also claims that the delivered trains were overweight and incompatible with the existing railroad tracks but these were disputed by MRT 3 management and experts.
The new trains, bought under the Aquino administration, were meant to expand and augment the rapidly deteriorating overhead light rail system.
Unused for 3 years
However, they sat unused in the MRT 3 depot for three years while the Commission on Audit (COA) found Dalian Corp. owed the DOTr some P1.3 billion in damages.
The COA even recommended that the DOTr, now headed by Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade, revoke the contract.
But Tugade forged a deal where the Chinese firm would fix the trains at no cost to the government.
An independent audit conducted by a third party, TUV Rheinland, also found all 18 trains generally usable despite several deviations from the terms of reference for their purchase.
Asked later at the forum’s sidelines whether such a deal with the same company that failed to deliver in the first place was prudent, Poe could only shrug: “It’s on their [DOTr’s] shoulders now to make sure that the Dalian trains are compatible.”
Depending on the configuration, there could be 18 trains with 3 coaches each or 16 trains, each one pulling 4 coaches.
On Oct. 28, one of the Dalian trains finally hit the tracks after extensive rehabilitation and a battery of tests to ensure its safety.
Its maiden voyage was widely seen by the public and even by the DOTr with cautious optimism that the glitch-marred MRT 3 system could be improved.
Pinoys as guinea pigs
But for Poe, it is hardly a cause for celebration.
“That’s just one of 16 trains we were supposed to have and it’s still on test run,” she said. “Ordinary Filipinos are being used as guinea pigs when those trains should have been tested by China in the first place.”
“I will be the first to applaud if they deliver next year,” she added. “But let us never forget the incompetent people who entered [into] the deal in the first place.”
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