Delon Porcalla | Philstar | February 16, 2017

An administration lawmaker is seeking an inquiry into the reported "rush" by the Department of Transportation to pay P2.7 billion to a Chinese firm that won the bidding to supply 48 coaches for Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) that were not operational yet.

Rep. Jericho Jonas Nograles of party-list Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta claimed none of the new coaches were working and that 12 of them bore "cracks." He did not say where and how he obtained the information or from whom.

In 2013, the then Department of Transportation and Communications bought 48 coaches from Chinese firm Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp. for P3.8 billion. All the coaches were expected to have been delivered by January this year.

Nograles said he could not understand why MRT-3 officer-in-charge general manager Deo Leo Manalo is "overenthusiastic" to pay the Chinese company 70 percent (or P2.7 billion) of the total contract price when nothing is working yet.

He said Congress should look into allegations that the MRT-3 management has approved the payment.

According to the lawmaker, the coaches are unusable due to the absence of components and the lack of critical tests and documentation.

"This is very unfortunate because the MRT was once seen as a symbol of the past administration's incompetence. And therefore people have high expectations that things will get better under the present government," Nograles said.

He said it was "absolutely reckless and irresponsible" to pay for the coaches without ensuring that they would be working.

'Rolling coffins'

At the same time, Nograles urged Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to crack the whip on the MRT-3 management following reports that malpractices committed in the past are being perpetuated despite the change in administration.

"Did our MRT officials get the President (Duterte's) memo that his government will not tolerate incompetence and corruption?" he said.

"No wonder our commuters are still suffering the same agony as they did in the previous administration," he said, noting the "cracks" were found in at least 12 of the bogey frames of the 19 coaches, which could "cause a disastrous accident if left unrepaired."

Nograles said the MRT-3's maintenance provider, Busan Universal Rail Inc., is also putting the lives of MRT commuters at risk primarily because it continues to use motors that have already reached their maximum safety wear limit.

The trains' wheels are also now prone to derailment because they have not been repaired or replaced, which should have been mandatory after every year of service, according to him.

"The MRT management and its maintenance service provider Busan are endangering the safety of our commuters because of their negligence," he said.