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LRTA rules out arson in LRT 2 fire

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The Light Rail Transit Authority said the state-run firm lacks a disaster recovery plan that would have been implemented to address emergencies such as the fire that hit a vital component of the LRT-2 and partially paralyzed the operation of the mass transport system.

Executives of the state-run mass transport system also admitted that there is a likelihood that the three shut down stations – Santolan, Katipunan and Anonas – may return to normal operations in less than nine months.

Further, LRTA officials said they are fully convinced that no arson was involved in the fire that damaged rectifiers that resulted in the closure of the three LRT stations and affected 200,000 commuters on a daily basis.

Bureau of Fire Protection probers informed the House panel that their ocular investigation of the burned property will end today, saying that the LRTA may start making their own assessment and investigation of the incident Thursday.

Grilled by members of the House Committee on Transportation during an inquiry into the October 3 fire, Federico Canar, LRT project engineer, said there is no contingency plan in place to swiftly put back the whole LRT2 system to normal operations.

Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon and other members of the House panel chaired by Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento appeared dumbfounded by Canar’s confession.

Except for Administrator Reynaldo Berroya, all members of the LRTA management team appeared in the hearing.

Biazon and fellow congressmen said the lack of disaster recovery playbook makes the mass transit system in Metro Manila unreliable in the wake of the worsening traffic crisis that affects millions.

“You should have a disaster recovery plan. You should have a disaster recovery playbook.. I think it should be part of what management does for critical infrastructure,”  Biazon said.

Questioned by CWS partylist Rep. Romeo Momo, LRT officials aired the possibility that the wait for normalization may not reach nine months as previously announced.

Lawyer Hernando Cabrera, LRTA spokesman, revealed that the firm is in possession of nearly all of the components that are needed to be replaced to get the trains back to the tracks.

Canar disclosed that out of the 186 components of the rectifier, only 11 parts are missing in their current inventory.

“If you will replace a whole new rectifier, it will not run to nine months.  It’s too much of an assumption and I think you are playing safe but at the expense of the anxiety of the public,” Momo told LRTA officials.

Jimmy Chua, head of LRTA’s Safety and Security Division, said their engineers have not yet conducted a close inspection of the damaged rectifiers, thus, cannot give an intelligent assessment of how to repair them and determine what components to be purchased.

Officials assured lawmakers that no arson was involved, saying that a day prior to the fire a lightning storm occurred and hit the rectifiers.

They also noted that closed circuit television recording showed no signs of intrusion into the electrical terminals.

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