LRT-2 tracks being stolen for MRT-3?
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - November 12, 2014 - 12:00am

Taiwan conducted live fire exercises last Nov. 3-4 in the waters around Itu Aba, largest of the Spratly Islands. It is nearby Philippine-occupied Pagasa Island, capital of Kalayaan town, Palawan. The Taipei Economic & Cultural Office informed the Philippines about the military drill via the Manila Economic & Cultural Office under Malacañang. The TECO and MECO are the two countries’ virtual embassies, as Manila recognizes only one China, that in Beijing. Taiwan, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines have overlapping claims over the whole Spratlys; Brunei and Malaysia claim only parts of it. Taipei and Beijing tacitly support each other’s actions against the other four, in the belief in Taiwan and China’s eventual reunification.

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Who’s this Civil Aviation bigwig that forbids hiring of necessary experts except if female and pretty? Clue: he’s the same fogey who lets airlines scrimp on travel billets for the agency’s compliance checkers. Same one too who’s foisting an inappropriate radar deal.

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Railway tracks of government-owned LRT-2 are being installed on privately owned and maintained MRT-3. The likely theft of public assets was told to The STAR as transport department employees gathered crime evidence.

One such evidence is a photo of an MRT-3 maintenance outworker standing beside stacks of LRT-2 rail tracks at the MRT-3 depot in North Triangle, Quezon City. The tracks have markings, “From Line-2,” “Grade 1100-A,” and “6000 mm,” among others. “Line-2” is the Dept. of Transport and Communications’ common term for LRT-2; “Line-1” for LRT-1, and “Line-3” for MRT-3.

The person in the photo is Engr. Alan Ortencio, of MRT-3’s maintenance contractor, Global-APT (Global Epcom Services-Autre Porte Technique). It was taken during his recent interview on TV news. (I can share copies to crime investigators, if they so wish.)

LRT-1 and LRT-2 are owned and operated by the state’s Light Rail Transit Administration, under Honorito Chaneco. Upkeep servicers are private CB&T and APT, respectively, by repeated contract extensions (see Gotcha, 5 Nov. 2014).

MRT-3 is owned by private builder Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), but operated by the DOTC, with Renato San Jose as acting chief. MRTC has sued DOTC for non-payment of lease. It also protests DOTC’s hiring of Global-APT without its consent from Sept. 2013 to the present.

MRTC sources confirmed that the tracks of LRT-2 and MRT-3 are similar — UIC 54 — having been built about the same time. They added that MRT-3 tracks are supposed to be Grade 900, so do not know the effects of using Grade 1100.

LRTA personnel first alerted The STAR about the transfers after MRT-3 trains nearly derailed four times in Sept. due to crushed or cracked rails. It turned out that Global-APT was not replacing the rails as part of preventive maintenance (mean time between failures), in breach of contract.

Despite daily abuse by overloaded trains, the dilapidated tracks merely are rotated like car tires. Thus, while the insides may look new, the tops are worn out and entire lengths fatigued, leading to crumbling (see Gotcha, 15 Oct. 2014).

Global-APT allegedly was scrimping on the special steel rails that cost $2,600 (P117,000) per standard 12 meters. Going by the photo and DOTC insiders’ accounts, there are dozens of LRT-2 tracks at the MRT-3 depot, amounting to tens of millions of pesos.

The transfers can be deemed malversation and illegal use of public property, under the Revised Penal Code. If the amount exceeds P22,000, the offense is punishable with life imprisonment, forced reimbursement of the misused amount, and perpetual bar from public office.

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Whatever happened to the planned Manila Bay mega-reclamation along Roxas Boulevard and Coastal Road in Baclaran, Parañaque City? A much-ballyhooed “Central Business Park-2” was supposed to rise there in 1988. But more than a quarter-century later, it is still marsh and mud. Apparently Manila Bay Development Corp. (MBDC) can’t fulfill its contract to build a “Greenhills-type commercial zone” like the one in San Juan-Mandaluyong. If so, the Philippine Reclamation Authority must rescind the deal, penalize the MBDC, and award the reclamation to a competent outfit. The government agency need not wait for an aggrieved taxpayer to sue it into action.

In fact, one such taxpayer has filed a parallel case against the PEA. This suit is to compel it to take back from MBDC 40 hectares of reclaimed land along Macapagal Boulevard, precisely due to non-execution of the Central Business Park-2. The 40 hectares was sold by PEA to MBDC in 1988 for only P472 million (P1,150 per square meter), one-eighth of the going rate then. The discount was because MBDC, as bidding winner, was to reclaim the Greenhills-type zone within five years, which it didn’t.

The taxpayer suit was filed by Uniwide Sales. The giant retailer got involved due to a related tiff with MBDC. Uniwide in 1998 had leased 20 hectares of its own reclaimed land to MBDC at the corner of Roxas Boulevard and Coastal Road, then erected a mall there on MBDC’s promise to build the Central Business Park-2 beside it. MBDC denies making such commitment. Uniwide lost multibillion-pesos, leading to the parceling of its land and dissolution of retail branches. Later its 15,000 shareholders discovered that two corporate officers had signed up to pay MBDC rent for the mall sitting on its very leased land.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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