LRT, MRT biddings all flop – as planned

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - January 26, 2015 - 12:00am

Last week’s bidding for MRT-3 maintenance flopped.

So did the one for LRT-2 only last Dec. 23.

The LRT-1 bidding failed earlier, Oct. 24.

With all three works dead, the present contractors will be extended month-to-month. That means continued sloppy upkeep of MRT-3, and spare parts shortage at LRT-1 and -2.

Meantime, the government unilaterally raised metro train fares by  50-80 percent, with no upgrade in service or facilities.

Designed to fail. As previously exposed (see Gotcha, 5 Nov. 2014), the biddings were designed to flop. Transport Sec. Joseph Abaya, Liberal Party head, can now retain the MRT-3 contractors, his party mates. Earlier those LP party mates had used the old-time maintainers of LRT-1 and -2 to grab that of MRT-3.

The MRT-3 bidding of Jan. 20 failed because no bidder showed up. The same thing had happened on Oct. 28, 2014.

The P2.2-billion contract for three years was enticing. Still, big domestic firms, in partnerships with foreign experts, found the terms of reference (T-O-R) hazy.

Unclear were the penalties for breakdowns or accidents, and performance indicators.

Indefinite extensions. The DOTC withheld basic info, like how many of the original 73 trains are still running and tracks need replacing, what spare parts are on stock, and when it plans to replace the busted signaling system.

With the failed MRT-3 bidding, Abaya indefinitely can retain the joint venture of Global-APT (Global Epcom and Autre Porte Technique). It would be month-to-month for P57 million, for as long as he wishes.

Global Epcom is a front of a high official of the Philippine National Railways. APT has long held the maintenance of LRT-2.

LP agent. Marlo dela Cruz told this writer that he formed the Global-APT joint venture. He was its authorized representative when Abaya granted the deal since Sept. 2013. He claimed to have left the venture in Aug. 2014. Yet in extending the Global-APT contract for the first time in Oct. 2014, U-Sec. Jose Perpetuo Lotilla addressed the notice to him.

Dela Cruz is an LP leader in Pangasinan, where he campaigned for the 2010 VP run of then LP head Mar Roxas. Roxas later became transport secretary, ahead of Abaya.

Closed-door talks. Dela Cruz was the chairman of PH Trams, which used to maintain MRT-3 till Aug. 2013. PH Trams was only two months old, with mere P625,000-capital, when it bagged the P517.5-million deal. It was in venture with CB&T (CommBuilders & Transport), the long-time maintainer of LRT-1.

Called “simplified bidding,” Abaya’s contract with PH Trams-CB&T was by closed-door negotiation, not public auction, DOTC records show. Signing with him were Lotilla and then-MRT-3 general manager Al S. Vitangcol.

Accidents, breakdowns, From MRT-3 files and news reports, rail accidents and breakdowns became frequent under dela Cruz’s PH Trams and then Global. Before that, maintenance was by Japanese giant Sumitomo Corp. for 12 years, until suddenly rescinded to give way to PH Trams.

With dela Cruz in PH Trams were incorporator-directors Wilson de Vera and Art Soriano. A U.S. immigrant, De Vera ran but lost as LP mayor of Calasiao, Pangasinan, in 2013. Soriano, also of Calasiao, is the uncle-in-law of Vitangcol. Its exposure in this column led to his ouster (see Gotcha, 26 May 2014). Roxas had handpicked Vitangcol at MRT-3.

Other incorporator-directors are Manolo Maralit and wife, and Federico Remo, then with the state-owned Philippine Export-Import Agency under Finance Sec. Cesar Purisima.

Sole bidder ousted. The LRT-2  bidding failed last Dec. because only one bidder, APT, participated. And it was even disqualified for insufficient submissions.

That means APT too, as present maintainer, will go on in LRT-2, as it does with Global in MRT-3.

The P1.2-billion upkeep price for three years was enticing. It would have doubled the present LRT-2 service of P17 million a month to P33 million to include spare parts. This would have let the winner purchase the parts, instead of the LRT Authority, which is always late.

Still, there were no takers, again due to hazy T-O-R. Unacceptable was the DOTC’s option to shorten the contract to only one year any time during the first year. This rider was inserted because of DOTC’s inability to get a private firm to handle and extend LRT-2, similar to LRT-1.

It was the sixth bidding snafu for LRT-2.

LRT-1 failed too. Like in MRT-3 and LRT-2, the amount up for grabs in LRT-1 maintenance was enticing: P423 million for one year.

But as in MRT-3 and LRT-2 too, the parties who initially expressed interest ub LRT-1 later shied away.

They found the prospects dark. The bidding framework was flawed from the start. The contract is only for one year, yet the DOTC expects the winner to invest in maintenance machinery worth P300 million. Compounding that is the DOTC’s inability to assure that the Ayala-Metro Pacific consortium, which will extend the LRT-1 into Cavite, will recognize the winner as the maintenance contractor.

Graft probe. With last Oct.’s bidding failure, CB&T was extended as LRT-1 maintenance contractor.

CB&T’s president is Roehl Bacar, a Mandaluyong City councilor. He signed the PH Trams-CB&T contract of 2012-2013, along with dela Cruz, Abaya, Lotilla, and Vitangcol.

Last Sept. the Ombudsman declared to investigate the shenanigans in MRT-3 maintenance deals. The personalities involved reportedly were told to explain their roles.

After the first Gotcha exposé of intentional bidding failures came out last Nov., Bacar sued this writer for alleged libel, in his Mandaluyong home court. He has sued other publications that mentioned him.

*      *      *

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

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com


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