DOTr expects new MRT3 maintenance provider by May 2018

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s transportation department expects a new maintenance provider for Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) by May 2018, after it finalizes the terms of a loan with the Japan government for the upgrade and upkeep of the glitch-ridden rail system.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Saturday, December 30 said in a statement that it is now in the final stages of the exchange of notes with the government of Japan for the grant of  official development assistance (ODA) for MRT3’s rehabilitation and maintenance requirements.

Transportation Assistant Secretary for Railways Timothy John Batan said the Philippine government expects to exchange notes with the Japan government in the 1st week of January 2018.

The deal, according to Batan, includes loan grant for the upkeep of MRT3, which has been encountering numerous malfunctions in recent years due to substandard maintenance and underinvestment in system renewal requirements.

Batan said the government chose Japan government as its partner because of its expertise and experience in running railway systems. (READ: TIMELINE: MRT3 mishaps)

"For example, Tokyo is almost as big as Metro Manila. Tokyo has 700 kilometers of operating railway systems, while Metro Manila only has about 80 kilometers," Batan said in Filipino.

He added that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade was the one who pushed for the inclusion of MRT3 upkeep in the pipeline of local projects that are being assisted by the Japan government.

Japanese maintenance provider?

Aside from funding, Batan said the transportation department will utilize the bidding process of Japan in getting a new MRT3 maintenance provider.

"[This is] required in all ODA arrangements with them," Batan added.

He said procurement rules and regulations will be observed in choosing the new MRT3 maintenance provider provider, noting that it will be Japanese like other projects of DOTr with Japan.

Back in November, the department terminated the contract with Busan Universal Rail Incorporated (BURI) for alleged "poor performance." Since then, an MRT3 maintenance transition team (MTT) has been manning the system. (READ: Ex MRT-3 service provider blacklisted from future bids by DOTr)

After the exchange of notes with the Japan government, the transportation department and railway engineers from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will conduct a due diligence study of MRT3 from January to February next year to clearly identify the needed rehabilitation works.

"So when May comes, Japan committed to us that a new maintenance provider is ready to mobilize," Batan said.

After contracting a rehabilitation and maintenance service provider, Batan said the department will put in place "a long-term, single-point-of-responsibility, operator and maintenance provider for MRT3."

The DOTr earlier granted the original proponent status to the Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) group for the rehabilitation, operations, and maintenance of the MRT3. The unsolicited proposal is now up for review of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

For the department, the MPIC group's unsolicited proposal is "expected to solve the historical fragmented approach" of running the MRT3.

Since 1999, the MRT3 has been owned by a private corporation, maintained by a different private concessionaire, and operated by the government, contributing to the system's current condition. – Rappler.com