ABS-CBNnews.com | October 7, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Serge Osmeña believes that the fastest way to solve management issues hounding the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is to negotiate a deal with businessman Manny V. Pangilinan.

Pangilinan, through his infrastructure holding firm, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), has been offering to buy out the rail system since 2011.

Osmeña said if government negotiated a deal with Pangilinan, it will no longer have to spend P53 billion just to buy out the rights for the MRT.

“You want to speed it up? I’d rather do a deal with Manny Pangilinan. I asked them to, I told them, ‘Why don’t you just do a deal with Manny, hindi na kayo gagastos dito.’ In this year’s budget, they are asking P53 billion just to buy out the bonds. Sabi ko bonds will not give you control of MRTC, it’s just a bond,” the senator told ANC on Tuesday

“The only way to get out of management without going to court is to negotiate the Manny Pangilinan offer. I think it’s a good offer. Manny Pangilinan is a professional manager and business entrepreneur. It’s a perfectly good offer,” he added.

MPIC made an offer in 2011 to take over the management of the system and to increase its capacity through the purchase of new trains.

A year later, it made another proposal to upgrade and rehabilitate MRT through a partnership with Ayala Corp.

Osmeña said the Department of Transportation and Communications did not accept the offers because they were “unsolicited,” and the agency would rather open it up “to make everybody level and come bid for ownership.”

The senator added that because of the complicated contracts signed by the owners of the MRT and government, it may take years before it can be settled.

“Kung hindi tayo makakakuha ng solution this year, wait until 2016, and you give your solution through your vote, because that’s the best we can do. It’s very disappointing,” he said.

“It will still be incompetently managed for the next two years at least.”

The private owners of the MRT, led by former chairman of MRT Corp. Robert Sobrepeña said they have also been proposing to improve the rail system, but their calls were ignored by the DOTC.

“That’s a puzzle to me. Bakit naman hindi kayo sumagot?” said Osmeña.

He added that he has been warning DOTC officials that the MRT is “an accident waiting to happen.”

The DOTC, meanwhile, has assured the public that the MRT is safe, amid a series of malfunctions and mishaps this year.

Several maintenance and improvement projects are also ongoing, most of which are expected to be implemented by 2015. New trains are also expected to be delivered next year to boost capacity.