Vanne Elaine Terrazola | Manila Bulletin | November 30, 2017

Senator Grace Poe described as "encouraging" the Department of Transportation's (DOTr) move to consider hiring Japan's Sumitomo Corporation anew to handle the maintenance requirements of the troubled Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3).

"Given the good track record of Sumitomo when it maintained the MRT for the first 12 years before the system went through a teleserye of unfortunate events, the prospect of having a reputable maintenance provider back is encouraging and a step in the right direction," Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, said in a statement Thursday.

On Wednesday, the DOTr announced conducting high-level discussions with the Japanese government to pave way for a three-year contract with Sumitomo and its technical partner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which both designed, built and maintained the MRT-3 in its first 12 years of operations.

The agency said the deal it eyes with Sumitomo and Mitsubishi would include the rehabilitation and restoration of the MRT-3 system's original performance.

Poe, however, prodded the DOTr to be transparent in sealing its deal with the Japanese companies.

She likewise reminded the agency to consider expanding its options in choosing the next MRT maintainance providers.

"Sumitomo may not be the only maintenance provider or even the best one. Thus, the government must ensure that the terms of the contract for whichever provider is hired, are not disadvantageous to the people and should be FOI (freedom of information)-compliant," she said.

Early November, the DOTr terminated its contract with Busan Universal Rails, Inc., blaming its "poor performance" for the frequent train breakdowns when it handled the MRT-3's maintenance in the last two years.

While awaiting a new maintenance provider, the DOTr created a Maintenance Transition Team (MTT).

An official of the DOTr reportedly said Sumitomo could take over anew over the maintenance of beleaguered railway by the second quarter of 2018.