DOTC: MRT passengers ‘held hostage’ by court case

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The agency says the MVP group's attempt to stop the government's acquisition of new train cars for the MRT 3 runs against public interest

MRT EXPANSION SOON? A DOTC team has declared a Chinese firm 'fit' to proceed with the expansion of the MRT-3. File photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The government on Wednesday, February 5 slammed an attempt to stop the acquisition of new train cars for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3, saying this is against the interest of hundreds of thousands of commuters riding the rail line every day.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) vowed to fight the case filed by the MRT 3 operator before the Makati regional trial court against the acquisition of 48 light rail vehicles (LRVs) to expand MRT 3’s capacity.

“We will fight for the interest of the hundreds of thousands of MRT 3 riders who have been waiting for more LRVs for too long. At the time when government is finally ready to deliver these projects, the public good is now being held hostage by a private company,” DOTC spokesman Atty. Michael Arthur Sagcal stressed.

In a two-page order on Tuesday, February 4, Makati RTC Branch 66 presiding judge Joselito Villarosa granted the petition of Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) and its affiliate for a 20-day temporary order of protection against the DOTC. (READ: Court stops DOTC’s purchase of MRT trains)

“Respondent (DOTC), its officials, employees, agents or any person acting in their behalf are hereby restrained from performing any and all acts related in any manner to its procurement of additional LRVs for the MRT 3 and from committing any act tending to usurp and to violate the rights of MRTC under… the BLT (build-lease-transfer) agreement,” Villarosa said in the order.

Last January 16, DOTC awarded the P3.77-billion contract for MRT 3’s expansion to Chinese firm Dailan Locomotive & Rolling Stock Company.

The contract involves the supply of new LRVs for MRT 3 over the next 3 years, with the goal of cutting waiting time at stations and decongesting the rail system. Currently, MRT 3 has 73 coaches serving passengers at 3-minute intervals. The 17-kilometer rail line runs from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City.

MRTC, controlled by the group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, asked the Makati court to stop the purchase, claiming it will violate the BLT agreement it signed with DOTC for MRT 3 in 1999.

The Makati court judge noted that among the rights assigned to MRTC under the BLT contract was a provision that it will only lose its preferential right to supply LRVs in either one of two instances: if MRTC is in breach of its obligation under the BLT or if MRTC consents to DOTC’s use of LRVs not provided by MRTC.

Sagcal said the Office of the Solicitor General will represent DOTC in the case. Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya will meet with the SolGen to discuss the case’s merits.

Sagcal emphasized the project is vital to improve MRT 3’s services and ease the inconvenience experienced by commuters.

The government has long been eyeing to expand the capacity of the rail line, which now carries 600,000 passengers a day, way above its design capacity of 350,000.

To have a free hand in deciding MRT 3’s operations, Malacañang ordered DOTC and the Department of Finance to take over MRTC by buying out its private owners. (READ: P56-B budget for MRT buyout ready)

Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corporation owns majority of MRTC. Government banks Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines hold a combined 80% economic interest, but without voting rights. –

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