Efforts to revive the former glory of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) through the acquisition of modern equipment including new trains were marred by anarchists who threw rocks at the new coaches while obstructions were placed on railways that posed dangers to commuters and those living near the tracks.
The Department of Transportation (DoTr) said in a statement it is one with the PNR in strongly condemning the stone throwing incidents “which have damaged our trains and are potentially putting the public in harm’s way.”
The DoTr said investigations are ongoing and it is closely coordinating with law enforcers in “immediately holding responsible hooligans and misfits.”
DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade noted that most of the incidents happened near the Alabang Station.
“There is no place in society for these dastardly acts, especially at a time when your government is doing everything it can to provide the riding public with modern transport infrastructure,” Tugade expressed.
“Next week you will see newly-acquired trains running on the PNR system, from FTI to Malabon stations. We wanted to extend it to the Alabang station if not for the frequent pelting of rocks,” he explained.
“What happened in Alabang is that whenever a train passes, it is targeted by rocks and slingshots. So it puts into jeopardy the safety of the riding public, so we decided that the train skip the station until we catch this animal,” he added.
The incidents resulted in a deluge of condemnation in social media against the vandals.
PNR spokesman Crissy Ecalnea said 14 incidents of rock-throwing that affected the trains have been recorded since early this month when the new coaches were deployed.
She, however, noted the difficulty in catching people responsible for the dastardly acts.
“It is hard to catch or identify those responsible for the stoning incidents as the trains are moving. And then those responsible usually have hidden themselves,” Ecalnea said.
A minor was caught by authorities as among the vandals who said that what he did was meant to be “for fun.”
“The authorities didn’t have any choice but to free him and just reminded the parents that they should stop the child from doing it again,” according to the PNR representative.
As a result of the recent incidents, PNR said that it will push for a bill that would impose heavier penalties on train vandals.
“If hit by rocks, the tendency of the shattered glass windows would be to hit passengers inside,” she said.
Public help sought
“The trains are owned by the Filipino people, and we all should do our part in helping their maintenance and upkeep, and help ensure that we protect these infrastructure investments so that majority of our fellow citizens may enjoy their long term use,” the DoTr said in a statement condemning the incident.
The recent stone-throwing that damaged refurbished trains “are indeed disturbing, and disruptive of the operations of the PNR, which has been striving to revitalize this important mass transportation alternative,” according to the statement.
The DoTr said none of the recent acquisitions from Indonesia have been damaged, “although there were attempts to wreck the undercarriage by recklessly planting debris along the tracks where the new trains are passing.”
“As we institute measures to reinforce protection of public property, we would also like to seek the cooperation of the public to help us in reporting these dangerous misdeeds. Your support and assistance will go a long way in helping us put a stop to this nonsensical activity that only endangers lives and property,” the DoTr said in its appeal.
Also recently, the contract for the procurement of the standard gauge Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) trains was signed by PNR General Manager Junn Magno and CRRC Locomotive vice president Wang Qiaolin, with Tugade and Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan as witnesses.
The new purchases were part of the ongoing project to transform PNR. “This train will represent the first trip for the South Long Haul Project or what we call the PNR Bicol and it would cut down significantly 80 percent of the travel time between Manila and the Bicol region.
The project consists of three train sets of three-car formations. These train sets, which are set to arrive in the country in June 2021, will be initially deployed for long haul service from Calamba in Laguna to Naga City in Camarines Sur and eventually to Legazpi City in Albay.
Tugade expressed enthusiasm for the procurement of the new trains as this was the first time the country would have trains sets with three types of accommodation. The DMU trains will feature business class, first-class, and second class accommodations.
The trains can accommodate 168 passengers with 36 seats for business class, 52 seats for first class, and 80 seats for second class.
In his message, Tugade hailed anew the PNR management for its remarkable initiatives to revive the Bicol route and implement reforms to improve its services.
PNR used to cover 479 kilometers of tracks from Manila to Bicol until it stopped operation in 2014 due to right of way issues and lack of trains.