Paolo Romero | The Philippine Star | November 27, 2017

The MRT Corp. (MRTC), owner of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), is willing to infuse $150 million to rehabilitate the glitch-prone rail system, officials said.

MRTC president Frederick Parayno said Sumitomo and the MRTC discussed an action plan to rehabilitate the MRT-3 that has been formally and separately proposed to President Duterte and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Sumitomo is the Japanese maintenance contractor that designed, built and maintained the MRT-3 system for 12 years or until 2012 without major glitches.

Parayno said Sumitomo is willing to return as the maintenance provider of MRT-3 if hired by MRTC.

Under the build-lease-transfer agreement between the government and MRTC, it is the latter's right to choose and hire the maintenance contractor for the MRT-3.

The responsibility of hiring the maintenance contractor was taken by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) during the term of former secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya when it refused to renew the contract of Sumitomo and instead hired PH Trams without bidding but through a negotiated contract.

After it was mired in controversies over its poor performance, including failure to purchase spare parts, PH Trams was replaced by two other firms, including Busan Universal Rail Inc.

Busan's contract was also cancelled earlier this month following numerous train breakdowns.

Abaya and other former transportation officials were earlier charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Parayno said MRTC can rehire Sumitomo and fix the MRT-3 without stopping operations if the DOTr will allow it.

The MRTC's rehabilitation plan will include a full inspection of the MRT-3 to be completed within 30 days by 100 engineers, the purchase of $50 million worth of spare parts, replacement of broken rails, and the complete overhaul of all 73 cars of MRT.

Parayno said the rehabilitation can be completed by Sumitomo, all while the trains continue to be operational, in as soon as 26 months from the beginning of the rehabilitation program.

He said the MRTC is willing to advance $150 million for the rehabilitation of the trains, to be recovered later only through fares, even without increasing fares beyond the rates of air-conditioned buses.

Parayno recalled how well the MRT-3 functioned while under the maintenance of Sumitomo.

He said Sumitomo was effective as a maintenance provider because it was religious in the purchase of spare parts for MRT-3. It also left $15 million worth of spare parts when its contract was terminated by former transportation officials.

"There is no other cause for the damage to the trains but the incompetence and failure of the succeeding maintenance providers to procure spare parts," he added.

Senators Grace Poe and Joseph Victor Ejercito, chair and vice chair of the Senate committee on public services, also backed the return of Sumitomo.

"They (Sumitomo) have the track record and it's a reputable Japanese company. Sumitomo will not allow its name to be tarnished," Ejercito said.