MRT-3 mess: Poe to include Abaya in Senate report list

Ding Cervantes (The Philippine Star) - January 29, 2016 - 9:00am

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya is “the beginning and end of the anomalies” in the signing of the P3.81-billion Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 maintenance contract, Sen. Grace Poe said yesterday.

“Since Secretary Abaya signed and approved the contract, I am a little bit surprised that he doesn’t have liabilities whatsoever,” she said.

The Senate panel which she heads will soon come out with a list of names, including that of Abaya, to recommend for prosecution, Poe said.

Abaya is secretary general of the Liberal Party, whose standard bearer is Manuel Roxas II.

Poe said the Senate subcommittee on public services, of which she is chairman, is now preparing an initial committee report on its inquiry about the failure of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to provide better services for commuters of MRT-3.

The committee is pressed for time to produce the report before the 16th Congress adjourns in June, she added.

They have called Abaya many times during Senate hearings, but it seems that the concerns on safety have fallen on deaf ears, she said.

Poe said the new trains might not even match when put on to the old MRT rails.

“We have said many times that (DOTC) should test these trains first using our system,” she said.

“There is a need to even check into the chemical component of these rails, if these are appropriate or within the standards. Now, the new trains have been delivered… we are not even sure if these will run smoothly since they have not conducted the tests.” 

Poe said technical experts have advised that the coaches should be tested at 60 kph for 5,000 km. 

“That might also be another problem,” she said.

Vice presidential aspirant Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. yesterday asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the alleged midnight deal that Abaya had signed. 

“The deal for me is highly questionable mainly because it was done without bidding,” he said. “Secretary Abaya justified it by saying it was because they were under an emergency, but some sectors have alleged that it was just a scheme to do away with the bidding.”

Marcos finds it distressing that the DOTC had proceeded with the awarding of the maintenance contract to a Korean-led consortium despite numerous questions over the agreement, including its awarding without bidding.

The Office of the Ombudsman must step in and determine if indeed the contract was carried out within the bounds of the law, he said.

It has the power to investigate and prosecute on its own or on complaint of any person any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency.

An investigation is of utmost importance since the   contract between the DOTC and PH Trams from 2012 to 2013 was questionable, Marcos said.

The DOTC had awarded the P3.81-billion, three-year maintenance contract for MRT-3 to the joint venture of Korean group Busan Transportation Corp., Edison Development and Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMI Corp. Inc. and Castan Corp.

Marcos said several groups have raised the lack of competence of the consortium as its members have inadequate capitalization and its local partners have no experience in rail maintenance.

The deal is being dubbed a midnight deal because it was entered into in the last few months of the Aquino administration and its funding had long been planned and appropriated in the 2014 and 2015 national budgets.

Less than six months before the Aquino administration ends, the DOTC has also called for pre-qualification and bidding for the LRT Line 6 from Bacoor to Dasmariñas City, both in Cavite.

Endangering lives

MRT Holdings, Inc. chairman Robert Sobrepeña warned yesterday that the 5,000-km test run for the new MRT  light rail vehicles (LRVs) could endanger the lives o commuters if done in the Philippines.

“Metro Rail Transit Corporation has an interest to safeguard in the proposed test run, being the owner of the MRT-3 System. MRTH, therefore, has reservation on the use of MRT-3 structures to test run the incomplete Prototype LRV and Second LRV as the activity can do damage to the MRTC-owned MRT-3 structures that can endanger the safety of passengers and the public,” he said in a two-page letter to MRT Corp.

It was addressed to MRTC chairman Tomas de Leon Jr., dated Jan. 25, 2016 and received the next day.

MRTH is the parent company of MRT-3 concessionaire MTRC. 

Sobrepeña said the manufacturer should have done the LRVs’ test run in its own factory before they were delivered to the Philippines as stated under the terms of reference of the DOTC with CNR Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. Ltd.

“The TOR clearly states that the 5,000-km test run for the Prototype LRV should have been done by Dalian Locomotive in China, then only once tested in China will the Prototype LRV be tested on the MRT-3 system, and then it is only after the Prototype LRV has passed testing on the MRT-3 system that any new LRVs will be ordered for manufacture and delivery,” he said.

The TOR also states that the LRV must pass a test on its brake system before they are delivered, but “apparently, the foregoing requirements o the TOR were ignored with respect to the prototype LRV and the second LRV.”

MRT general manager Roman Buenafe did not respond to The STAR when asked to comment about the issue at past 2  p.m., but his staff said he was in a meeting at around 3 p.m.

Buenafe said the 5,000-km test run for the new LRVs will be made here in the Philippines because of differences in weather.

“The weather there is ice and the wheel slipped,” he said.

“I can do that after revenue hours and in fact even during revenue hours,” Buenafe told reporters during an inspection at the MRT depot.

He said they are now just waiting for the arrival of a Chinese engineer who will attach the electrical cables that will make the trains run.

Buenafe is expecting the new LRVs to become operational by March.

However, Sobrepeña said the test run should have been done in China to determine the LRVs safety and efficiency.

“To conduct the test run in the MRT-3 system for both the prototype LRV and the second LRV, considering the dilapidated conditions of the rail tracks which would hinder a 65 km-per-hour speed and the poor maintenance of the signaling system, would not allow the proper testing of the LRV’s safety and efficiency because should there be any glitches, it can be attributed to factors independent of the LRV’s performance, but rather on the condition of the rail tracks and/or signaling system,” he said.

 Sobrepeña believes that the government’s “shortcomings and deviations” from the TOR is an act prejudicial to its interest and the safety of the riding public.

“In connection with the foregoing, MRTH II would like to demand from MRTC to object to the planned test run of the prototype LRV and the second LRV on the MRT-3 system and to inquire with DOTC if these planned test run will be covered by the existing insurance coverage of the MRT-3 system,” he said.

Abaya said in a recent roundtable interview with  editors, columnists, and reporters of The STAR that Sobrepeña “has no personality” with them.

“MRTH is a non-entity with regard to the DOTC,” he said.

Abaya said MRTC “is the part” that the DOTC is in contact with, and that they always meet up with MRTC officials.  – With Christina Mendez, Perseus Echeminada, Robertzon Ramirez


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