MRT3 safety audit starts August 27
MANILA, Philippines – An independent team tapped to do a safety audit on the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) is expected to commence work on Wednesday, August 27.
According to Honorario Chaneco, officer-in-charge of the railway line, the independent team from Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR) arrived in Manila on Tuesday afternoon, August 26, and will be reporting at the MRT office Wednesday, August 27.
“We’ve been asked to prepare an office space that’s good for 4 [persons],” Chaneco said.
Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya previously said the auditing team would inspect the physical structure, rolling stock, and performance of the existing maintenance provider.
The safety audit, however, will not cover MRT3’s manpower, which was blamed for the train derailing that injured at least 36 people this month.
The foreign team would be conducting the audit for a month, Chaneco said, but would not be necessarily staying in the Philippines in the entire duration of the audit.
The safety audit of the MRT3 had been stalled until Chaneco assumed the position as MRT3’s officer-in-charge.
“My predecessor did not approve the proposed audit,” Chaneco said, referring to sacked MRT3 general manager Al Vitangcol.
MRT3 upgrade overdue
Meanwhile, clamor for Abaya to go through what Metro Manila commuters experience daily has grown, amid the MRT woes.
On August 13, an MRT3 train bulldozed through the Taft Station’s safety barriers. An internal probe later revealed human error caused the derailing. On August 15, a power supply problem stalled MRT3. On August 23, MRT3 suspended operations due to a breakdown of its radio communications system.
“We are procuring the upgrade of the signaling system because it is old and we are upgrading the power system as well,” Abaya said.
Abaya added that the rail along EDSA would also be replaced, as well as the existing trains.
“… However not all trains will be overhauled. We are still trying to reach out with the DBM to increase the budget to address this as well,” Abaya added.
The DOTC chief said representatives of Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. Ltd. of China has presented the design of the new trains being procured for MRT3.
MPIC’s MRT3 expansion proposal
Meanwhile, DOTC warned Metro Pacific Investment Corporation (MPIC) about its offer to take a stake in and expand the operations of MRT3.
In January, MPIC revived its $300-million offer to expand the capacity of MRT3 by acquiring additional coaches. It also has a separate offer to acquire equity and bonds issued by Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC), the private contractor that built MRT3.
MPIC, led by Manuel Pangilinan, has an option to acquire a 48% stake in MRTC after signing cooperation agreements with the various groups that hold rights and interests in the company. MPIC has yet to exercise this option.
If MPIC pursues its plan, it could be grounds for its disqualification from the P1.72-billion ($39.32 million) Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS) project, a concession agreement the firm signed with the government providing a single ticketing scheme for the country’s rail lines MRT3 and Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2.
Abaya said they already rejected MPIC’s offer and added that DOTC Undersecretary Perpetuo Lotilla had issued a warning to the firm about its possible disqualification from the AFCS project.
MPIC’s offer competes with a government’s plan to gain full ownership of MRTC.
In March 2013, President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order No. 126, directing the Department of Finance to take over ownership of MRT3 to save on subsidies and huge rental payments made to the MRTC shareholders.
The government spends about P7 billion ($159.73 million) on subsidies for MRT3 operations.
The MRT3 buyout though requires the blessing of the arbitration court, Abaya said. MRTC has a pending arbitration case in Singapore against the Philippine government over the latter’s late payment of equity rentals.
Another case was filed against the government for the awarding of the P3.8-billion ($86.78 million) contract to Chinese company CNR Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Company for the supply of 48 new light rail vehicles for MRT3. – with a report from Mick Basa/Rappler.com
Read more about MRT3 here.
*($1 = P43.75)