By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz
MANILA — Contrary to claims of his critics, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade on Thursday said he has been using public conveyance as part of his personal life and job even as transportation chief.
“Pag ako sumakay, wala ho akong kasamang media. Sumasakay lang ho ako nang personal. Minsan kasama ko yung anak ko, yung apo ko, minsan kasama ko yung staff ko (When I take public transport, I don’t have the media with me. I just take it for personal reasons. Sometimes I’m with my son, my grandchild, sometimes I’m with my staff),” Tugade said in an interview on the sidelines of the 118th anniversary of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Manila.
Tugade was responding to the challenge issued by Anakbayan spokesperson Alex Danday to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, himself, and other officials to commute to work daily for a week.
The transportation chief said there was no need to accept Danday’s challenge as he has been doing it without publicity in mind.
“I can demonstrate my empathy without accepting the challenge that is basically media-oriented or psyche-oriented,” Tugade said.
Even though he tried to cover his identity during past trips, some people recognized him and asked to take pictures with him.
“Pwede ho bang iladlad niyo yung picture para maipakita na sumasakay ako? (Could you publicize the picture so they could see me taking public transport?),” Tugade said.
He cited his ride aboard the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) during the previous Holy Week to quietly test out the Dalian trains and to check the rails of the beleaguered mass transit line.
“Nung Holy Week, tinesting namin yung Dalian saka tinignan ko yung pag-grind ng riles habang nasa beach yung mga iba. Nandun ho ako sa riles ng tren (During the Holy Week, we tested the Dalian trains and looked at the grinding of rails while others were at beaches. I was there at the train tracks),” Tugade said.
The DOTr chief said during his trips aboard public transportation, he learned that there were problems with Metro Manila’s mass transport system — from its rails to coaches and other systems.
He added there were other problems such as the lack of discipline of some commuters.
“Wag natin kalimutan na tayo may ambag sa problema. Yung ambag natin sa problema, yung tinatawag natin na dalawang bagay–yung karunungan at yung disiplina (Let’s not forget we’re adding to the problem. What we’re contributing, these two things—knowledge and discipline),” Tugade said.
Another problem, Tugade said, was the maintenance of the rail transits in Metro Manila, especially the MRT-3 during the previous administration.
“Yung maintenance program, ayan po yung isang bagay na nakaligtaan nung nakaraan. Yung stocking inventory, ayan ho yung isang bagay na nakaligtaan nung nakaraan (The maintenance program, that’s one thing they missed. The stocking inventory, that’s another thing they failed at in the previous administration),” Tugade said.
He added he was no stranger to the issue of vehicular congestion in the streets of Metro Manila as he usually traveled with no sirens or escort vehicles.
“Yung nasusubukan niyo hong trapiko, nasusubukan ko rin ho yun. Kasi kung hindi ko masubukan, tama sila—papano tayo makakaplano at makakadiskarte? (The traffic you experience is the same thing I go through. Because if I don’t try it, they are correct—how would we make plans or solve problems?),” Tugade said.
On Wednesday, Danday issued the public transport challenge to Duterte and other officials including Tugade, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Spokesperson Assistant Secretary Celine Pialago.
This came following claims of critics of a mass transport crisis in Metro Manila brought about by recent suspensions of operations of the LRT-2 due to a fire that razed its power rectifiers and glitches hounding the MRT-3.
Panelo and Tugade both acknowledged there were transportation issues that need to be addressed but said there was no crisis as transportation in the capital has not been paralyzed. (PNA)