Aquino: Transportation chief Abaya stays

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, January 8, rejected calls to sack Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

The President made the statement in a news briefing in Davao City, where he led the inauguration of a 300-megawatt power plant.

Asked whether Abaya was staying on as transportation chief, Aquino said, "Yes."

He explained the government's problems in terms of its maintenance provider for the  Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3), which is the basis for the call of presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe for Aquino to sack Abaya.

"Let’s go back. Why is there a problem with the maintenance contract? The entity that used to have the maintenance contract at the time the contract was about to expire said, 'We want an increase in the fees that we charge.' Aside from increasing the fees, they also said, 'We will not give you warranty on the service because the ridership far exceeds the original plans,'" Aquino said.

He said that the government did not want a contract with a service provider that refused to provide a warranty, prompting it to look for another entity.

Aquino said the government just signed a 3-year contract that day with the new MRT3 service provider, the Busan Group.

"There was never a moment when MRT3 did not have a maintenance provider," the President said.

Asked if he thought Poe's call for Abaya's replacement was politically motivated, Aquino said in Filipino: "You have to ask Senator Poe. I'm not authorized to be her spokesperson."

Poe, who had investigated the Metro Rail Transit management, had called on Aquino to fire Abaya immediately. She said “the safety of the riding public is in peril' because of the DOTC chief's ‘incompetence and shortsightedness.’” (READ: Poe to Aquino: Fire transport chief Abaya now

Abaya is acting president of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), which Aquino chairs. The LP is fielding former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II as its standard-bearer in the 2016 national elections. (READ: Should Jun Abaya choose between DOTC and LP?) – Rappler.com