‘John’ problem in PNR commuter stations may have to stay awhile

Facebook post of Ehm Diolata, which has gone viral, shows a picture of the deplorable state of the PNR's toilet project.

WHILE the management of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) intends to rectify what its chief deemed as an irritatingly failed project intended to provide commuters with clean and complete toilet facilities, the agency cannot simply take over the said project as it could lead to possible legal tussles in the future.

Junn B. Magno, who sits as general manager at the train operator, said his group finds it hard to complete the 20 toilet facilities in the stations of the commuter rail due to legalities pertaining to procurement.

“We cannot simply procure the supplies needed as it was an abandoned project that the past administration started,” he told the BusinessMirror. “We might be charged with malversation cases.”

The PNR reacted to and shared the Facebook post by Ehm Diolata, with a photo of one such toilet—showing no partitions between bowls, and signs outside indicating it was for unisex use.

Magno explained that the previous administration tapped multiple contractors for the different supplies and manpower requirements for the toilets.

“What they did is they auctioned off the parts and pieces of the contract to different contractors – meaning, we have a different deal for the structure, another for the furnishings, another for the part of the toilet – instead of one,” he explained.

Based on documents from the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the previous management decided to chop the toilet construction contract into six.

The six contracts are part of the larger toilet-improvement program – dubbed as Kayo ang Boss Ko Toilet Facilities – for the different offices and facilities owned and/or operated by the transportation department – including airports, ports, and regional offices.

In total, the whole program costs about P143.14 million.

The project for the PNR was priced at P7.03 million when procured. It aimed to provide clean toilet facilities to commuters using the commuter line.

Magno said his group had already identified the problem when he assumed office in 2017.

“The problem there is, they cannot find the documents to give the contractors a chance to rectify their mistakes – they abandoned their projects,” Magno said.

The Commission on Audit (COA), during an exit conference last quarter, had told Magno’s group to ask contractors to pay for the abandoned projects.

“If that happens, the transportation department cannot simply turn over the project to us. We have already told them that we will do the project, but it is stuck in red tape – it has become convoluted,” he explained.

The BusinessMirror asked former Department of Transportation and Communications Secretary (DOTC) Joseph Emilio A. Abaya for clarification, but he had yet to reply as of posting time.

Magno noted that he has already recommended the filing of cases against the erring contractors, blacklist them from future bidding exercises, and notify the audit commission that the project will be turned over to the PNR management.

“I will find a budget to do this. There are 20 stations involved, and none was finished,” he said.  “If they download the project to us, we will finish it.”

A viral post circulated in social media late last week showed a picture of the state of the toilet project. The toilets – based on the picture – lacked proper washing facilities and even partitions for each bowl.  It was bad enough there were no partitions to separate each bowl and provide users the most basic privacy; worse, the sign outside tags it as a unisex toilet, with the icons of males and females posted.

The post has been shared by 4,400 netizens as of posting time. It also got the attention of the DOTr, which also clarified how the project started.


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Sources regularly see Lorenz at telco and transport conferences. He graduated from the University of Santo Tomas, and has been covering the beat since 2013. He likes to featurize stories, and tries to find another angle for spot news. He travels during his spare time, and likes his coffee black -- no cream, no sugar.


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