By Jerome Aning | Inquirer.net | July 29, 2015
IF there is anyone to blame for the sorry state of the Metro Rail Transit-3, it should be the Department of Transportation and Communications, according to a lawyer and spokesman for the private owners of the Edsa railway system.
Lawyer David Narvasa, spokesman of the MRT Holdings II (MRTH-II), said President Aquino III should not have exonerated the DOTC while blaming “political decisions” made by his predecessor, former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo for neglecting the MRT-3.
In his last State of the Nation Address, Aquino took a swipe at MRT Corp. for allegedly “forgetting its obligation” to maintain the train system and implement a general overhaul.
In his SONA, the President, citing a DOTC report, claimed “only token cosmetic changes were undertaken” and that this “practically guaranteed the breakdown of the trains.”
Narvasa, however, countered the allegation, saying the general overhaul of the trains, through maintenance provider Sumitomo Corp., began in 2007 and was fully completed in 2009.
The lawyer said proof of the completion was the acceptance and approval of the DOTC of the General Overhaul Acceptance Report for each of the 73 light rail vehicles (LRVs).
DOTC consultant Systra Philippines also conducted an audit report in 2010 on the maintenance practices of Sumitomo, which prompted the government to favorably recommend all of the extensions for Sumitomo’s maintenance contract for four times.
“During the time that MRTC was handling the technical maintenance of the MRT-3 system, through Sumitomo, the MRT-3 was hardly a news item of maintenance and train problems,” Narvasa said.
The MRTH-II official stressed that when the DOTC took over the maintenance, at least 20 trains were running, with four back-up trains, to ferry more than 500,000 passengers a day.
“Today, the DOTC-maintained MRT-3 system has only seven to 12 trains running and carries only 350,000 passengers,” he noted.
Narvasa also scored the DOTC and its appointed maintenance providers PH Trams/ CB&T for not purchasing spare parts as required in their maintenance contracts.
“At the time DOTC took over, over 6 months-inventory of spare parts valued at around $15 million were turned over by Sumitomo to DOTC and PH Trams/CB&T. Since then, DOTC-appointed maintenance providers not only exhausted the 6-months inventory but also did not purchase new spare parts whereas Sumitomo used 60 percent their maintenance budget to purchase spare parts,” he explained.
Narvasa also belied the President’s claim that MRTC passed the job of improving the train system onto the government “at very short notice.”
He said as early as August 2010, the government nominees controlling the MRTC Board already turned over to the DOTC the procurement of technical maintenance for the MRT-3 system.
Despite this, the DOTC continued to ask MRTC to renew its contract with Sumitomo until Oct. 19, 2012 and the department eventually appointed PH Trams/CB&T as the new maintenance provider.
This is the same contract that is now the subject of the case filed by the Ombudsman indicting former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol III and the PH Trams officers.
In his SONA, the President also criticized MRTH-II for blocking the purchase of new train coaches with a court-issued temporary restraining order, but Narvasa said the interim measure of protection was only to ensure that the Chinese-made trains would be compatible with and would safely operate on the MRT-3 system.
“MRTH-II and MRTC were not consulted and were kept in the dark about the procurement of the Chinese-made trains. The Chinese manufacturer chosen by DOTC has never built a double-articulated LRV. Its expertise is building locomotives,” Narvasa stressed.
“All MRTH-II requests from DOTC is that it allows MRTH-II to inspect the Chinese-made trains to assure compatibility to the system and thus the safety of the riding public, and MRTH-II is willing to drop the pending case immediately,” Narvasa added.