Boo Chanco | Philstar | May 2, 2017

According to DOTr Undersecretary Cesar Chavez, not one of the 48 new light rail vehicles (LRVs) bought by former DOTC secretary Jun Abaya for MRT-3 can be used for at least three years. Abaya bought the LRVs from a Chinese manufacturer for P3.8 billion.

News like this should get us very angry. Strong suspicions were aired before the trains were bought that things do not seem right. Reputable manufacturers were disqualified one after another until only the Chinese company from Dalian was left standing. Remember what happened to the Czech manufacturer?

The Chinese company had no experience manufacturing the MRT cars we require. They have only been making engineless train cars pulled by a locomotive. It should have been disqualified from the start.

Thus, the Chinese LRVs were delivered bare. No motors, no signaling system and no everything else needed to safely use it for our MRT-3.

Compatibility among the Chinese LRVs, the German engines and signaling system from South Korea had been expressed from the start. The problems confirmed last week should be no surprise. Fixing the problem will really take a lot of time and I can predict, will force us to make do kasi nandyan na yan.

The Chinese LRVs arrived in Manila untested. Under the contract, the Chinese company was supposed to do the testing before delivery… 5,000 kilometers.

DOTC was not supposed to conduct the testing, but DOTr will now have to take on the job. Because the LRVs were delivered untested, the Chinese manufacturer would be saving a bundle and one wonders who shares in the estimated P2 billion savings.

Ordering the cars first may even be a case of the cart before the horse. They needed to improve the rails and upgrade the power supply system first so they can run the new LRVs at optimum speed and capacity.

Now we have 48 white elephants rusting away in the MRT depot. Indeed, in the rush to order, they didn’t even prepare a proper storage facility for the LRVs when the units first arrived.

The supplier had been nagging DOTr to pay the P3.8 billion cost of the LRVs. To Sec. Art Tugade's credit, he issued strict orders to withhold payment until such time as the mess can be sorted out. Why should he risk his reputation for what is clearly a big transgression of the Abaya DOTC team?

Let us just hope the Dalian company won't use their Beijing connections and get the Chinese Embassy to collect for them. Eager as the Duterte administration is to get billions in Chinese ODA, we may end up paying good money for nothing we can use.

For now, it is right and proper for Sec. Tugade to call for an independent evaluation of the deal, as he did. They are hiring a foreign audit team to review Abaya’s contract with the Chinese company.

The Ombudsman should also investigate. There is more than a whiff of corruption in the transaction. And even if we set that aside for the moment, there is clearly bad judgment in buying thee LRVs the way they did from the Chinese company.

It should be easy for the Ombudsman to get the records from DOTr before something happens like a fire or an attack by an army of hungry termites. A billion pesos of the people’s money have already been paid and leona - pille und rezept zur verhütung | ohnerezeptfreikauf there has to be some accountability for that.

I have my highest regard for the Ombudsman, but I have also wondered why she exempted Abaya from the case filed against the manager of MRT-3 over the anomalous maintenance contract. The value of the contract was beyond the approval authority of the manager. Someone higher must have signed the contract or authorized its approval.

It is also curious why Abaya's DOTC insisted in awarding the LRV contract to the Chinese firm even in the face of the arbitration case filed by MRTC in Singapore precisely questioning the decision. Even if DOTC managed to get the approval of the Court of Appeals, government can still lose that arbitration case and be liable for damages.

Sen. Grace Poe's reaction to the news about the useless LRVs is right. "We should see where we went wrong so we do not repeat those mistakes, and teach a lesson to those involved who did not think of the welfare of Filipinos. There should be a case against them."

This time around, a high level official must be held accountable for the messy deal. Even if no corruption is involved, which seems unlikely given the Czech ambassador’s revelations, the approving authorities must be held accountable for wasting P3.8 billion of the people's money. All that money… now tied up in useless rail cars.

Someone big must be punished. Perpetual disqualification from public office will be too kind a punishment.

Why the MRT mess

Lito Madrasto, who represented the Philippine Constructors Association as an observer in DOTC's bidding process, had this insider's view of what went wrong. He posted his observation in response to a post I made on Facebook.

The first error was refusal to listen to technical people. The second error was taking out the Japanese maintenance provider. And the third error was awarding the maintenance contract to an inexperienced firm. 1-2-3...KO!

They were aptly warned by various personalities in the know for so many years but they insisted on their way. Hence, it is no longer negligence. It can be construed as premeditated.

The same holds true for (1) the LTO registration stickers and driver’s license; (2) the LTO plates; (3) the LRT1 South Extension delays; (4) the MRT/LRT1 Common Station; (5) the MRT Maintenance Contracts; (6) the North Rail fiasco; (7) the NAIA operations mess; (8) the lack of night flight facilities of provincial airports; (9) the port of Manila congestion mess; etc.

While the past leaders of DOTC must be held accountable, so too should the present leaders be for allowing things to get worse. And up to now, no one knows if indeed there will be workable solutions.

The issue is the present state of MRT-3 and the response of DOTr is a proposal of a subway line that will be completed, at the earliest in 2024. So what will happen to MRT-3 in the meantime? Let it rot?