Thursday, April 10, 2014

Track to tragedy? CCW blasts PNR for ‘inferior’ wood railroad ties

NAGA CITY—Anti-crime watchdog Citizens Crime Watch (CCW) Bicol Chapter blasted the Philippine National Railway (PNR) for allegedly importing inferior wooden railroad ties that may lead to accidents in the Bicol Express Route.
DISASTER-IN-WAITING? A Citizens Crime Watch field investigator inspects the wood ties used by the Philippine News Railways for the Bicol Express route. Allegedly, the wood ties easily give in when prodded by a screw driver. Said organization claims that the wood ties are substandard and may cause future accidents.
(Photo: Citizens Crime Watch)
In a complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, CCW-Bicol named the following persons as liable for the transaction: former General Manager Mr. Junio M. Ragragio; Officer-In-Charge Controllership Division Ms. Jane R. Balong-angey; Manager, Budget and Cash Division Mr. Rosendo C. Calleja; Officer-In-Charge, Safety and Maintenance Division (Area 1) Mr. Edwin Q. Balong-angey; Chairman, BAC Mr. Estelito A. Nierva; Engr. Ruben A. Besmonte; Atty. Neofito C. Perilla; Mr. Abdul Aziz M. Pangandaman; Engr. Divina Gracia D. Dantes; Engr. Cesar L. Bocanog and Engr. Marlo D. Arias.

CCW Secretary General Carlo Batalla explained that instead of yakal hardwood, the agency opted to purchase larch, a softer type of lumber. Already, Batalla said, the budget was already disapproved in the notice of disallowance. This, Batalla said, puts in danger the lives of the passengers of the Bicol Express train. 

Batalla emphasized that before the wood ties were imported, there was already a notice of disallowance in audit, “because the procurement procedure, processing of payments for the procured items, including the use of goods were found irregular, deviating from established rules and procedures on procurement,” the notice said.

PNR engineering department head Jaime Del Rosario, however, averred that the railroad tracks are stable.

For his part, PNR Bicol manager Constancio Toledano said that that that bolts and springs, along with other forms of technical preparation, will be used with the wood ties to ensure the safety of the passengers.

To allay fears, the PNR even hired a foreign engineering team to inspect the tracks, Toledano added.
It will be recalled that the Bicol Express train stopped its operation in November 2006 because typhoon Reming battered the railroad tracks.

An attempt to resume operation was revived in November 2012. However, another typhoon rendered the tracks once again usafe for use.

Toledano clarified that it is still unknown when the Bicol Express will resume operation, as the preparation and inspection processes are still underway.

Meanwhile, as of press time, Batalla announced on his Facebook page that CCW conferred with the new management of the PNR yesterday.

During the meeting, it was revealed that the Naga City to Legazpi City train will resume its operation in September, in time for the Peñafrancia fiesta. 

Furthermore, the wooden ties that the CCW questioned will be replaced by a harder type of wood such as yakal, which was supposedly originally part of the contract. The replacement will be done prior to the resumption of the operation in September. 

Lastly, the two parties reached an agreement to cooperate with each other in prosecuting those who are liable in the aforementioned transaction.

Batalla vowed: “The CCW would like to assure our fellow Bicolanos, especially those living in the railroad towns, that we will be monitoring this case with the utmost intensity.”—BICOLSTANDARD.COM

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