Who will maintain MRT? South Korea, Pinoy firms want out

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Maintenance of the glitch-prone Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is uncertain after the South Korean firm opted out of a new deal and the Philippine-German contractor of the rolling stock and signaling systems also declined a one-month extension of its service.

Sources said South Korea’s Busan Transport Corp. informed the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) that it wanted merely to serve as technical adviser in the three-year maintenance contract that was awarded without public bidding before Christmas Day.

The South Koreans are reportedly worried about lawsuits that the company may face in connection with the deal that was awarded through negotiated procurement after the DOTC claimed the existence of an “emergency.”

Sources said the DOTC opposed the withdrawal of Busan, which has the technical expertise for the service. It has four Filipino partners.

The previous six-month maintenance contract expired on Jan. 4 and was supposed to be replaced by the deal with Busan.

Amid the South Koreans’ move, the DOTC reportedly offered the one-month extension to the previous group. But the principal maintenance contractor also declined, citing the government’s failure to pay the company in full.

Roehl Bacar, representative of the German-Filipino joint venture maintenance contractor Schunk Bahn-und Industreitechnik-Comm Buolders and Technology Philippines (SBI-CBT JV), said the DOTC paid them only P28 million of the P131 million agreed upon for the six-month contract.

Bachar said his company is still waiting for the balance of around P102 million.

“We have this issue in the previous short-term contract. The DOTC management, the MRT management, there is a vacuum in the provisions that they cannot quantify the manpower supply,” Bacar said.

He explained that the government asked them to provide spare parts for the trains should these malfunction, but the government has not paid them.

Should they accept the month-long extension, Bacar said that the DOTC promised to pay the company more than P21 million. But Bacar said they have learned their lesson.

He showed The STAR his firm’s letter of refusal to extend the contract yesterday afternoon.

Aside from the revenue losses, Bacar said extension was meant merely to “stave off” disaster for the DOTC with its alleged gross neglect of standard operating procedures in ensuring a smooth transition.

“Staying on to maintain the MRT for one more month will only cover up the lack of preparedness of their supposed successor as well as the negligence and incompetence of the DOTC, not to mention the shenanigans in the emergency procurement negotiations conducted by the DOTC for the P4.3-billion three-year MRT maintenance contract, which includes conducting the general overhaul of about 40 trains of the MRT, and the total replacement of the line’s signaling systems,” he said in a statement.

The SBI-CBT JV had won the P131-million contract as the service and signaling provider of the MRT.

Their contract was supposed to expire last Jan. 4 with the takeover by Busan Transportation Corp. and its Filipino partners Edison-Tramat Mercantile-TMICorp-Castan Corp.

He said they were expecting the turnover of contract to the MRT’s new service provider beginning yesterday, but it turned out no one was ready.

The SBI-CBT JV has filed before the Office of the Ombudsman charges of neglect and misconduct against DOTC Undersecretary for operations Edwin Lopez, MRT 3 general manager Roman Buenafe and several other MRT 3 executives for the P102-million unpaid billings.

Bacar said that their German partner also “would like to press charges” against the DOTC and MRT officials.

“They are also seeking help from the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce to lobby the DOTC for payment to the joint venture for the technical expertise,” he added.

He said they would slowly pull out their services until the new contractor takes over. They are trying to avoid having the commuters think that they are “sabotaging the government,” he added.

Buenafe did not take calls from The STAR.

Meanwhile, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) urged the government to explain what happened a year after the DOTC implemented the fare hikes in the MRT and Light Rail Transit lines and there is still no improvement in train operations.

The group said that in the absence of a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court (SC), the fare hike was implemented throughout the year.

Bayan and various commuter groups have questioned the fare hike before the SC.

The MRT and LRT lines have an estimated 1.3 million commuters daily and the DOTC collects P2.1 billion from the fare hike.

“It has become clear that the fare increase had nothing to do with the improvement in the services of the train lines,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said. – With Rhodina Villanueva












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