Disaster Waiting to Happen

In the wake of the EDSA-MRT3 accident (that if we can even call it an accident is another story) there are just so many questions to ask than finding what really the answer/s be in order to prevent it from happening ever again. Yet at this moment, many rail experts believe that the current situation of the MRT System is a disaster waiting to happen because of the improper maintenance and non-upkeep of the entire railway system. Documents shows that although it is designed to last for 25 years, it can only be realized if it is maintained properly because the daily wear and tear may cause metal fatigue to the already worn out and over-burden railway system that carries more passengers than it was originally designed.

According to the initial incident report, the southbound MRT train that carries about 500 passengers stalled after leaving the Magallanes Station apparently because of insufficient power supply. And in an attempt to bring the passengers to safety, the MRT control center ordered an operational train to push the stalled train to the next station. Unfortunately, when the trains start moving, the coupling that joins them reportedly got detached causing the defective train to move very fast on a downslope tracks and crashed into the steel barrier of the Taft Avenue station. The incident resulted to cause minor and serious injuries to more than 30 people.

When Metro Rail Transit Holdings (MRTH) built the MRT3 in 1996, foreign experts and the Philippine government affirmed it as a safe system to travel for mass rapid transit line. However, in recent years, the safety and reliability of the MRT3 system has been put into question because of the series of accidents that happened. Many experts blamed it to the aging railway system and that it also operates significantly above its designed daily capacity. But there have been no major accidents in the past 12 years while Sumimoto and Mitsubishi maintained and continuously upgrade the maintenance procedures despite operating over capacity. On the other hand, it has been reported that all major accidents happened only in the last two years, including the most recent one when the maintenance of the system has been given to another company’s responsibility together with the usual legal conflicts.

And while the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) are still investigating if mechanical or human failure was the cause of the train to crash, DOTC Sec. Abaya hastily came out with a conclusion already that the two drivers are to be blamed for the accident as they broke standard operating procedures, according to reports. But I think what’s really disturbing is when Sec. Abaya made comments about the incident that “Riding is a personal decision. I won’t go out of my way to convince the people to ride the MRT.” Which many believe is contradictory to what he said that the MRT remain safe to the riding public.

While the issue of blaming game about the Taft Avenue train derailment is not new anymore when it comes to this kind of situation but making a conclusion before even a thorough investigation has yet to be done is just a clear sign that no one would want to accept responsibilities. I am not a railway expert or an engineer of sort but pointing finger to the drivers as the one who are at fault at this moment is like convicting an accused person without due process. I’m not saying that they are absolve from the incident but why only blame them when the root cause of the incident is the aging railway system itself. And since the authorities continue to insist that the railway system is maintained properly and that MRT remain safe then why it stalled in the first place? Perhaps it is within normal operation for an MRT to come to a sudden standstill while travelling from one station to the other.

Image from Rappler.com

Expressway by the Lake

By the name itself, it seems like an illustrious gateway to a greater development in speeding up the growth of the economy. Cutting travel time from one place to the other is an absolute solution in increasing the number of business investors as goods and people can efficiently be transported, thereby creating work and jobs for the community and revenue for the government. And as prestigious as it sounds, it is also poised to solve the long standing flooding issues in nearby and along the localities since it will be built on top of the mega dike.

I am actually talking of the biggest project under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III that was mentioned in his latest edition of State of the Nation Address (SONA). It is a massive project as it involves not only a 47-kilometer long six-lane expressway dike but also bridges, pumping stations and flood gates. This mega project is expected to facilitate traffic flow and ease traffic congestion and will also be used as a flood control system to protect the shore land along Laguna de Bay, according to project authorities.

The proposed route of Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike starts from Bicutan, Taguig and ends up at Los Banos, Laguna. It will be implemented through a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) under the Build-Operate-Transfer scheme. DPWH will bid out the Laguna Dike project before the end of 2014 then construction is expected to start later the following year and will be completed in 2021.

Now the question is, will it actually solve the real flooding issues? Or it will only contribute to a much bigger problem just like the 2005 levee failures in greater New Orleans that causes even more flooding and devastation. Since it is a massive 47-kilometer long dike, does the environmental impact have been fully addressed already? And how about the livelihood of the people along the shores of Laguna de Bay which will be displaced in the construction of the permanent structures?

Image from dpwh.gov.ph

Hamazing Lewis…!

The partially rain soaked Hungarian Grand Prix yesterday was full of intense excitement especially in the final third of the race where the rivalry between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has surfaced once again. It all started when Hamilton’s team radio came on with a message that Nico be allowed to pass through as both of them have different race strategy which Hamilton refused “unless he gets close enough to overtake”, Lewis replied.

And Hungaroring was for Hamilton to take with a third place winner, just ahead of Rosberg, after starting from the pit lane. For that, Lewis is indeed, Hamazing. If you are a Formula 1 fans, you know exactly how big the disadvantage when you are starting from the pit lane. Not only 20 cars that you need to pass but you are also starting with a cold car and that’s the reason why there’s a warm-up lap before the race gets going. Tire grip and braking isn’t too good as well with a cold car. And having a damp race track is adding misery to Hamilton’s already bad weekends in a row. It is certainly not helping him in the title race as he is 14 points behind championship leader, Nico Rosberg.

On the other hand, there’s only one bright advantage that Hamilton would get from starting in the pit lane, that is avoiding collision and crashes during the race start as drivers would want to try to overtake. Only if that will happen and if not then you have to work very harder and push like crazy. Although the race start crashes didn’t happen but it didn’t take that long before the first of the two safety cars were deployed. By then, Hamilton’s car starts warming up and with several accidents on the track, the pole advantage was reduced significantly. That allows Hamilton to catch up and is already in seventh place in less than 20 laps only into the race.

As the race track gets dryer and dryer, so thus the gap from the race leader to the third place gets thinner and thinner as the chequered flag is fast approaching. Hamilton, who started from pit lane, was chasing Alonso for the top spot while Ricciardo is doing the same to him and just behind his tail. With only a couple of laps remaining, Hamilton can no longer hold off Ricciardo and eventually passed Alonso too before the final lap. What happened wasn’t a surprise as Ricciardo has an advantage by virtue of having a fresher tire than Alonso and Hamilton who struggled with worn tires. But the day doesn’t end just like that, as Rosberg was chasing the pack so fast and lapping more quickly

Although I’m not convinced yet by the Mercedes camp’s reported conspiracy theory, that the Germany owned team allegedly favored their German driver than their English driver. But when Hamilton was told over the radio to let his teammate and championship rival, Nico Rosberg, pass him had me thinking otherwise now. And seems the conspiracy theorist may have a point given the successive misfortunes that Hamilton has suffered that all started in Monaco. It will be interesting to watch what will happen to the Mercedes camp over the next few weeks.

Image from www.gqitalia.it

The End Does Not Justify The Means

I think I’m an open-minded person because I accept whatever criticism you throw in my way, as long as you don’t disrespect me in doing so. I tend to favor what is morally right (not just being right) and that it will benefit the many and not for a chosen few. I always have a strong opinion in many things especially politics but I often distance myself in making comments because of work related ethics. I also believe that “the end does not justify the means”, it is not just possible to do good by doing something that is essentially wrong.

A prime example of it is the continued defiance of Malacañang when the Supreme Court declared the Disbursement Acceleration Program as unconstitutional in a unanimous vote (13-0). The thirteen justices declared that “cross-border transfers of savings of the executive department to offices OUTSIDE the executive department” and “the withdrawal of unobligated allotment from the implementing agencies and the declaration of the withdrawn unobligated allotments and unreleased appropriations as savings prior to the end of the fiscal year and without complying with the statutory definition of savings in the General Appropriations Act”, under DAP is unconstitutional.

And for that, the Aquino administration filed a motion for reconsideration and will appeal the verdict before the High Tribunal citing that Malacañang did not violate the law in implementing DAP. Despite that the Constitution says otherwise, I do agree somehow in their stands that it is necessary to correct flaws in the budget system and to fast track government’s priority projects. That is laudable, I would say. In fact, the Supreme Court even recognized the positive results of DAP based on a study conducted by the World Bank for its benefits to the Philippine economy.

But then, (I know you are waiting for it) the rule that I mentioned above still apply because people will use it to justify their bad actions based on the good things that they have done. And I think that is what’s happening right now. I agree also with what the Freedom From Debt Coalition said “that President Aquino gave the Filipino people a flimsy excuse that it was necessary to expedite the release of savings because waiting for the end of the year would be too late”. Because there is always a legal and constitutional way of asking a supplemental budget without usurping the power of the Congress. So any method of reaching a particular goal that is inherently wrong is not excusable even if you acted in good faith.

Gareth Bolt: The Prince of Wales

With the World Cup coming to its end and the first two matches of the last eight games will be played tonight featuring the surprised improvement of France against the ever consistent Germany in the first game. Then host nation Brazil will face-off against the surprised brilliance of its South American neighbors, Colombia, in a late kick-off tonight (at least in my side of the world). And it is at this stage of the tournament that the games become so intense that a simple mistake will have you packing your gym bag and head home early.

The first semifinalist will be known in tonight’s games between France and Germany then Brazil vs Colombia. It is at this point that the work as a whole of each team will be tested whether they go home or moves on to play at Estadio Mineirão. This just reminded me that despite the team effort, there’s always an individual brilliance, the likes of James Rodriguez that will show up in the end and that of Gareth Bale’s impressive and remarkable run and finish during the recent Copa del Rey finals against arch-rivals Barcelona.

Image from telegraph.co.uk

Bale’s moment of individual magic has earned him a few monikers already. He was hailed as the “Prince of Wales” and some christened him as “Gareth Bolt” because of his burst of pace and astonishing sprint despite being pushed off the pitch then score the winning goal in the 85th minute in his first Copa del Rey finals. It all started from another counter-attack when he collected the ball on the left of the pitch just inside Real Madrid’s own half then Bartra tried to stop him by pushing him well off the pitch and at some point, it looks like the ball was going out but Bale managed to keep it in, sprint back into the pitch with some four yards back from his defender then catch up with the ball first before he slotted the ball between the legs of Barca’s goalkeeper that set off wild celebrations from the fans.

One must need to see the play because words can’t simply describe it properly of how amazing and breathtaking it was. In fact, one journalist has written it like this, “The strength he has to run, get out of the field, get past the defender and then kick the ball. Unbelievable”.

Many believe that the hefty price tag (100 million Euros) that Real Madrid paid to bring him from Tottenham has paid off already and his incredible power and strength so late of the match indicates that he has it within him to be one of the best players in the world.

Check out the video of Bale’s amazing run towards the goal.