MRT-3 rehab overprice enough to buy new trains
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2018 - 12:00am

DOTr falsely claims that MRT-3 commuter trains would be “back to original state in 26 months.” Having been fielded in Jan. 2000, those 72 Czech-made light rail vehicles (LRVs) are nearly 19 years old. Overhauling cannot fully restore their safety, reliability, and comfort.

Only new trains are in mint condition. With the more than doubled MRT-3 rehabilitation price, in fact, DOTr can procure 72 brand-new LRVs.

DOTr is to rehab the whole railway for P18 billion. That includes replacement of tracks, upgrade of overhead catenaries and depot, repair of stations, and overhaul of the 72 old LRVs.

In 2016 and 2017 Metro Rail Transit Corp., MRT-3’s private owner-builder, proposed to do the same rehab for only P7.5 billion. Sumitomo had given that price – at mere pass-through, no markup for MRTC. MRTC and Sumitomo have been working together for years. Sumitomo had constructed MRT-3 for MRTC in 1998-1999, then maintained it, including the 72 LRVs for 12 years, 2000-2012.

DOTr ignored the MRTC offer. In mid-2018 Usec. for Railways Timothy John Batan announced that MRT-3 would be rehabbed for P17 billion. There was no explanation for the P9.5-billion jump from MRTC’s P7.5 billion. He merely copied the work scope and 26-month duration mentioned in the MRTC letters. The same Sumitomo is to do the job.

Last month Batan said the price has risen further to P18 billion. Still no details – despite the constitutional rule for full transparency. A loan for it was signed last week. The price differential is now P10.5 billion, to be repaid by the people.

What can that extra P10.5 billion buy? Batan should know. He was part of the P3.8-billion purchase of 48 LRVs from China in 2013. Hired the previous year, he was head executive assistant or right-hand man, of the Usec. that facilitated that deal. Why, at that China rate, DOTr can buy double the number of LRCs, 96, for P7.6 billion – with room to spare for any price hike.

Of course, the Chinese trains are faulty. Due to 94 design and fabrication flaws in copying the Czech specs, the trains are inoperable. Batan, among others, should be made to answer for that.

If DOTr is to get Siemens LRVs like the originals, today’s unit cost is P150 million. So 72 new ones would total P10.8 billion.

That’s just a little over the P10.5-billion additional cost to the P7.5-billion original rehab proposal. And remember, that P7.5 billion includes the overhaul of the 72 old trains.

If Batan wisely uses the P18 billion, MRT-3 could have 144 LRVs in all. That would truly boost train service. As for the 48 inapt “new” trains from China, return them for refund.

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Imelda Marcos’ graft sentence includes perpetual disqualification from public office. But expect her still to run for Ilocos Norte governor in May 2019. She’ll claim that her conviction is not final because appealable before the Sandiganbayan and the Supreme Court. If in the latter, the appeal can take years.

Meantime she can enjoy conveniences from the $356-million stolen wealth. For one, the police say they will arrest her only after considering her 89 years of age. Yet an arrestee’s age is only for a court, not the police, to distinguish.

Imagine what else money can do to frustrate justice. The obvious lesson from Imelda’s case it that it pays to plunder.

*      *      *

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 https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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