MANILA, Philippines — Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya dismissed the allegations made by Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Holdings Chairman Robert John Sobrepeña against him and former transportation secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.
“He is now playing politics….MRT Holdings can’t speak in behalf of MRT Corporation. They are two separate entities….MRT Corporation is the party government contracted with in the build-lease-transfer (BLT) agreement,” Abaya said in a text message on Tuesday, February 9.
In August 1997, the transportation department and MRT Corporation signed a BLT agreement for the construction of a mass rail transport system along EDSA. It took effect in 1999 and would last for 25 years.
In a statement on Monday, February 8, Sobrepeña said that Roxas’ and Abaya’s inaction on the proposal of private companies to maintain Metro Manila’s busiest train system, supposedly since 2000, could be basis for graft charges agianst the two.
But Abaya clarified that his department “formally rejected the MPIC (Metro Pacific Investments Corporation) proposal right before we awarded the AFCS (automated fare collection system) Beep contract.”
It was in 2011 when MPIC submitted to the department its P25.1-billion ($565-million) proposal to rehabilitate the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3).
In 2014, MPIC submitted its scaled-down P23.3 billion ($524 million) proposal to upgrade and rehabilitate the country’s most congested railway system, but did not get the go-signal from the department.
The department “did the calculations and it wasn’t beneficial for our people because it will entail an addition 10 or 15 years of concession period and higher fares….They say no cost to government but they hide the fact it entails higher fares for our people,” Abaya said.
Other than MPIC, the department also received last month a P4.65-billion ($97.260-million) MRT3 rehabilitation and upgrade proposal from a joint venture of German firms Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik GmbH and HEAG mobilo GmbH, and local partner Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corporation.
Sobrepeña said that in 2014, his firm and the line’s former maintenance service provider Sumitomo Corporation submitted a P4.38-billion ($91.81 million) MRT3 proposal, accounting for “a complete rehabilitation of existing train cars for over a period of 18 months.”
To this Abaya said: “The 2014 proposal is also from a non-MRT Corporation entity thus also a unsolicited proposal outside of the BLT. In fact, it wasn’t even a proposal because it only showed bullet points of what their intentions were. Not sure if that time we have already awarded the procurement of the new light rail vehicles, making the proposal moot.”
The transportation departments is already implementing MRT3 rehabiltation and capacity extension projects amounting to P9.7 billion ($203.33 million).
The complete overhaul of Metro Manila’s most-congested elevated railway system is expected to be done within the term of President Benigno Aquino III.
This includes the procurement of additional train coaches, train general overhauling, ancillary systems upgrade, platform edge doorstep, signaling system upgrade, rail steel replacement, communications system upgrade, traction motors replacement, and the improvement of the overhead catenary system.
The rehabilitation and capacity extension projects also provides for security fence and noise barrier, consulting services, upgrade of conveyance facilities, a footbridge for the North Avenue Station, weather protection cladding, Internet connection, passenger information system, and passenger hand straps.
“All other entities take on an unsolicited proposal. We have seen that going to a transparent, competitive, and open bidding has yielded better results than unsolicited proposals,” Abaya said.
Sobrepeña also alleged that the series of events that led to the damage of the MRT3 started when Roxas was at the helm of the DOTC.
“It was under [Roxas’] term that the Sumitomo contract was not renewed. That was the first mistake. The second mistake was negotiating with PH Trams, which also happened during the term of Roxas,” Sobrepeña explained.
Abaya disputed Sobrepena’s claim. “His timeline is wrong because Sec. Mar left earlier because of the demise of Jesse Robredo. He is now playing politics as well.” – Rappler.com