Is it worth it? Senate to scrutinize P6.6B MRT budget
MANILA, Philippines – The Senate will scrutinize the proposed P6.6-billion ($150 million*) allocation for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) in 2015 to determine if transportation officials can deliver on the promises attached to the request – including “under 300” service disruptions for the year.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in a statement that the MRT allocation is under the proposed 2015 budget of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), which is attached with a "promissory note" or deliverables based on the request.
“We would like to know if by giving the P6.6 billion, the DOTC can redeem on its promises,” Recto said.
He said the Senate budget hearings on the DOTC budget are also expected to tackle the state of the MRT 3, which has been hounded by maintenance problems, highlighted by the derailing of its train on August 12, which injured at least 34 passengers. (READ: TIMELINE: MRT 3 mishaps)
"I think we should also look if the public is getting value for the money it is giving MRT this year," the senator said.
He added: “We’ll ask if the P6.6-billion subsidy will be enough to prevent its trains from jumping off the tracks. We’d also like to know how much it would cost to cut the queueing time for a ticket so that time spent in lines would be shorter than the ride itself."
Under its proposed P52.9-billion ($1.209 billion) budget, the DOTC budget recommends an allocation of P1.92 billion ($43.9 million) for MRT operation and maintenance, and P4.66 billion ($106.5 million) as “subsidy” for the train system – higher than this year’s P1.81-billion operation and maintenance allocation and P4.09-billion subsidy.
Recto said the proposed DOTC budget has a special provision which allows it to use “farebox revenue” and “non-rail collections” in settling the MRT’s operating requirements and obligations incurred in previous years.
"In exchange for this amount, the DOTC is promising to reduce transfer time from 10 minutes to 5 minutes and decrease its load factor by 8%,” he said.
Based on the DOTC budget submission, it is targeting an average speed of 48 kilometers per hour, a 90% on-time schedule and 4.48 million passenger kilometers traveled every day for 2015, for the whole rail sector.
“As to service disruptions, it is keeping the number of what it calls ‘passenger unloading incidents’ to under 300 for the whole of 2015,” Recto said.
He predicted the Senate hearings on the proposed DOTC budget to be “some sort of diagnostics session on what ails the MRT and what its cures will be.”
Some senators are seeking a Senate probe on MRT-3 operations and maintenance in view of the latest mishap, as well as an assessment of the entire Philippine public and mass transport system. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P43.73