By Hannah Torregoza
Senators on Sunday urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) again to address the numerous issues hounding the country’s railway systems.
Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, made the call after a southbound Philippine National Railway (PNR) train got derailed minutes after leaving the Paco Station.
The incident, which happened on Saturday afternoon, saw passengers being evacuated from displaced coaches.
The senator said the derailment of the PNR train from its station should serve as a wake-up call on its safety management and enforcement.
“We have had incidents of derailment of PNR trains every year, and it’s simply unacceptable,” Poe said in a statement.
“Whether it’s the MRT, LRT or the PNR, we don’t want to see passengers getting offloaded and made to walk along the rails,” the lawmaker further said.
Poe said the DOTr must look into the incident and seriously enforce strict inspection and maintenance of the PNR trains, considering that a number of them are already old.
“Let’s have a public transportation system that will bring the people to their destination and back to their homes safe and unscathed,” she said.
“The DOTr has been allocated a budget for this in the 2018 national budget,” she pointed out.
Poe pointed out that the administration has lined up ambitious infrastructure projects involving railways in the next few years.
“While we embark on these, let us show the public that the current PNR fleet is reliable, comfortable and safe,” she said.
Authorities said the PNR train was carrying around 500 passengers when the derailment took place.
Around 80 passengers were said to have been injured and some were rushed to the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital for treatment.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, vice-chair of the public service panel, echoed Poe’s statement, saying the recent derailment of a PNR train in Manila is another reminder of the “shameful state of our transport system and the need to fast-track our modern railways program.”
“I call on the DOTr to investigate this accident for the purpose of preventing another derailment which threaten the lives of Filipino commuters,” Ejercito said.
“While it was fortunate that no one was seriously hurt, I strongly urge the DOTr to put in place an efficient system of check and monitoring to ensure that the safety of the trains as well as the tracks,” he added.
“We cannot afford to be lax and have a business-as-usual attitude for the country’s oldest rail system,” he stressed.
In the first place, Ejercito pointed out the railway system modernization should have been done “ since yesterday.”
“We need to lay those new railroad tracks ASAP!”
“ As vice chairman of the Senate committee on public services and as a life-long advocate of transport modernization, I will continue to find ways to rehabilitate our transportation system while keeping watch over the performance of concerned agencies,” the senator assured.