Ex-MRT maintenance firm claims ‘hostile takeover’

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – As thousands of commuters were stranded on EDSA last Friday following the disruption of MRT service, the Filipino-German joint venture tasked to repair and maintain the problematic rail system was unceremoniously stripped of its job in what its officials said was a “hostile takeover” by a new contractor.

Roehl Bacar, representative of the German-Filipino joint venture Schunk Bahn-und Industreitechnik-Comm Buolders and Technology Philippines (SBI-CBT JV), said yesterday South Korean-Filipino consortium Busan Transportation Corp. and Edison-Tramat Mercantile-TMI Corp.-Castan Corp. took over the project “after office hours” on Friday without proper notice.

“The takeover was hostile. There was a short notice. We were given termination right away, maybe after office hours. I was informed by phone the contract was taken over at around 7 p.m.,” Bacar told The STAR. 

He said the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) did not inform him of the termination of the contract or give his firm enough time to sign inventories and surrender the old identification cards of employees.

While the SBI-CBT JV had first declined DOTC’s request for a one-month extension of their contract, Bacar said that they later accepted an offer “for reconsideration” and opted to continue the operation of the trains.

The DOTC, however, withdrew the contract three days after the SBI-CBT JV signed the one-month extension, Bacar said.

“They want Busan to come in right away,” he said Friday, adding that the Filipino-South Korean consortium had been waiting in the wings since Thursday “even without formal termination” of the previous contract.

The MRT broke down twice last Friday in the morning and in the afternoon.

MRT general manager Roman Buenafe did not reply when sought for comment by The STAR.

There were reports Buenafe had blamed sabotage for MRT’s operational glitches on Friday.

But Bacar insisted the service disruption was a result of DOTC’s decision to limit operations from around 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. to only the stretch between the North Avenue station in Quezon City and the Shaw Boulevard station in Mandaluyong City, with only six trains running.

He explained that what happened on Friday was due to power fluctuations in the morning and that the Manila Electric Co. later  explained their effects on the trains computer system.

He said the signaling systems of the trains on Friday were in good condition, but the DOTC opted not to lift the provisional service for still unknown reasons.

The STAR contacted DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya but he declined to comment, saying he was “not privy” to technical details and that Buenafe may be in the best position to explain the matter.

The SBI-CBT JV had a falling out with the DOTC after the latter reportedly refused to settle P102 million in unpaid billings.

It filed charges of neglect and misconduct before the Office of the Ombudsman against Buenafe, DOTC Undersecretary for operations Edwin Lopez and several other MRT 3 executives.

The SBI-CBT JV won the P131-million contract as the service and signaling provider of the MRT, but the government only paid P28 million of the agreed amount for the six-month contract, Bacar said.

He said they would press the DOTC to pay the unpaid billings, noting the firm’s German partner has invested “thousands of euros” for the project. 

Tell all now

Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Escudero urged former MRT 3 general manager Al Vitangcol to reveal everything he knows about the irregularities in the contract for the maintenance of the mass transport system, particularly the other personalities involved. –Marvin Sy




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