DOTr eyes MRT3 buyout under Duterte admin
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is reviving talks of a buyout of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3), a plan of the previous Aquino administration that did not work out.
DOTr Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez revealed this as the Senate probe into the MRT3 mess resumed on Tuesday, May 23. (WATCH: LIVE: Senate hearing on MRT3 issues)
"Ang direction namin diyan is to buy out [the private sector's stake]... Pinag-aaralan pa (Our direction there is to buy out the private sector's stake. We are still studying it)," Chavez said.
Former president Benigno Aquino III signed an executive order in 2013 ordering the buyout so the government could auction off the operations and maintenance of the MRT3 without having to bother with legal obstacles. The MRT3 is partly owned by the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC).
The plan was aimed at solving the problems over the ownership and end huge rental fees to the MRTC. (READ: Poe blames Roxas for MRT3 mess)
Chavez said the government has been paying equity rental of at least P610 million monthly to the MRTC for the past 15 years, adding there are 7 to 8 more years left.
Put under LRTA regulation
Chavez said they want the MRT3 reorganized and then privatized for 25 years.
"Kailangan ma-privatize ang operations and maintenance ng MRT3 (The operations and maintenance of the MRT3 have to be privatized). This is still being studied, no finality yet, nasa pag-aaral (we're in the stage of studying it). MRT3 should be privatized. How many years? 25 years," he said.
Before the buyout, the DOTr is eyeing an executive order to transfer the MRT3 under the regulation of the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) so all 3 train systems, including LRT Line 1 and Line 2, will be under one regulatory body.
"Dalawa ho 'yan. Magkakambal ho dapat ang privatization and the reorganization. (There are two issues. Privatization and reorganization are twin concerns.) Pinapag-aralan namin ni (We're studying with) Secretary [Arthur] Tugade an executive order to be issued by the President transferring the MRT3 to LRTA, is that enough?" Chavez said.
"Ang theory namin the PNR has a board, the LRTA has a board, we are creating a Mindanao Railway Corporation, it has a board. Para 'di na nagiging discretion ng general manager at transportation secretary. May fiscal autonomy, interoperability, may totoong nagbabantay. Right now the MRT3 is just a project management office," he added.
(Our theory is that the Philippine National Railways has a board, the LRTA has a board, we are creating a Mindanao Railway Corporation, it has a board. So it won't be up to the discretion of the general manager and the transportation secretary. There will be fiscal autonomy, interoperability, there is a real overseer. Right now the MRT3 is just a project management office.)
Putting the MRT3 under the LRTA before the buyout and eventual privatization, Chavez added, will be beneficial.
"Pero ano pagkakaiba pag i-privatize mo na ngayon ang MRT3 under LRTA? Magkakaroon na ng committee to monitor [the] concession agreement," he said.
(But what's the difference if you privatize the MRT3 now under the LRTA? There will be a committee to monitor the concession agreement.)
The 2017 General Appropriations Act or the national budget, however, does not include an allocation for the planned buyout.
The MRT3, running from North Avenue to Taft Avenue, serves nearly 500,000 passengers daily – way beyond its capacity of 350,000. Passengers have long endured the inconvenience associated with riding the MRT3 – long lines, delays, and accidents. (READ: No more long lines by end-2017 – MRT3 management) – Rappler.com