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Forget Ice Water. Philippine Commuters Are Challenging Politicians to Ride Public Transport at Rush Hour

@rexremitio: Unlike politicians, commuters in Metro Manila have been taking the #MRTChallenge everyday

@rexremitio: Unlike politicians, commuters in Metro Manila have been taking the #MRTChallenge every day

Not amused by Philippine government officials responding to the Ice Bucket Challenge, netizens have dared top-ranking officials to instead take the #MRTRushHourChallenge and #PNRRushHourChallenge.

Netizens called on officials to ride the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) as well as the Philippine National Railways (PNR), which run across the country’s national capital region, during the rush hour to experience for themselves the difficulties that ordinary commuters experience every day.

Owned by private company MRT Corporation and operated in partnership with the Department of Transportation and Corporation, the MRT has been plagued by long lines that stretch for hours, technical glitches, and congested coaches.

Meanwhile, passengers of the state-owned PNR are complaining of deteriorating service as government continues to give inadequate subsidy for the country's public railways.

MRT also figured in a recent accident on August 13 when one of its train coaches derailed, injuring some of its passengers.

Photo Credits: @PUPmemes.

Photo Credits: @PUPmemes.

An online petition by Dinna Dayao on Change.org calls on President Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III to require all public officials take public transit at least once a month. The petition has garnered over 12,000 signatures.

Senator Grace Poe took the #MRTChallenge. But Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya was criticized by netizens for taking the coach for the elderly and disabled on a slow hour, escorted by bodyguards, and complete with full media coverage. President Aquino himself has refused to take the challenge.

Here are some of the reactions on Twitter which reflect the growing dissatisfaction of train riders in Metro Manila:

MRT ride as publicity stunts: if you need to do that in order to understand our situation, then you have failed us.

Ice bucket challenge, and our gov't officials accomplished it. they easily accepted the challenge, why not #PNRRushHourChallenge?

[Transportation Secretary] Abaya’s MRT ride even had press coverage. This should instead be a daily game for commuters: spot Abaya in the MRT.

Those who suggest that ‘fare hikes’ and privatization is the solution to MRT woes should read and research first. MRT is private, leased to the Philippines.

The popularity of these rush hour challenges is an indicator of the depth of the riding public's increasing discontent with the country's privatized mass transit system. Authorities should quickly respond to the challenge by fixing the problems besetting the train service in the nation's capital.

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