Chino S. Leyco | Business Manila Bulletin | September 15, 2017

The Department of Finance (DOF) has no plans to execute the takeover of the Metro Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) by buying out of the train system's private shareholders.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that while buying out the private shareholders of MRT-3 is an option, such decision "doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense" considering the complexity of the ownership issue.

"That is certainly one option but you know if you look at the entire system most of the other parts of the system are already privately owned. So it doesn't seem to make a lot of sense if we buy only one part of it while the rest is owned by people in the private sector," Dominguez said.

"It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to do that, it may look a little better if the old system is really operated by the private sector. You've seen how the government operated it, it was not a sterling example of public service," he added.

Under the Aquino administration, the government had earmarked P50 billion to acquire the whole economic interest of state-lenders Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) as well as other shareholders of MRT-3.

But due to funding constraints and legal questions, the government failed to executive the plan.

Dominguez now said MRT-3 is better to be managed by the private sector.

The government, through Land Bank and DBP, holds an economic interest of 80 percent in MRT-3, by virtue of the government's purchase of asset-backed bonds issued by Metro Rail Transit Corp.’s (MRTC) original owners Metro Rail Transit Corp.

MRTC is now controlled by Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC).

In a related development, MPIC Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan revived his offer to buy out the government's interest in the busy MRT-3, which Dominguez said should be discussed first with the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

"Essentially we are discussing our common position with the DOTr, you know this is a DOTr (issue), it's really under them, we are only involved because we own shares and they owe us money through the bonds," Dominguez told reporters.

"So whatever DOTr decides to do operationally will have effects on our position, our financial position. So we are discussing with DOTr ano ba talagang gusto nila, (what they really want)," he added. Dominguez said the DOF and DOTr would soon come up with a common decision on MRT-3 and Pangilinan's offer.

"We had several meetings already with DOTr, the last one was yesterday and we are moving towards coming to a common position. By the way this is not only Manny Pangilinan, there are other parties involved here, so he's got his own set of characters he has to deal with," the DOF chief said.