Jovic Yee | Philippine Daily Inquirer | November 7, 2017

With the government now in charge of maintaining the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3), the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has assured riders that it would improve the efficiency of the country's busiest train system within "three to six months."

Effective on Monday, the DOTr terminated its three-year maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail Inc. (Buri) for its "poor performance" and "failure to put in operation reliable and efficient trains."

Buri, however, said it would protest the move, claiming it was not afforded due process by the government. It vowed to go to court to seek a protection order and have the termination of its contract declared null and void.

The DOTr said it finally decided to end Buri's contract over the maintenance firm's "failure to address the issues" it raised last month.

"It cannot be overemphasized that what is at stake here is the welfare and interest of the riding public. This office could not just sit back and wait while watching Buri trifle and flirt with the lives of the commuting public," Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade said in the notice of termination he signed on Nov. 3.

Transition team formed

To ensure that MRT 3 operations would not be affected, a transition team headed by the MRT 3 director for operations, Michael Capati, was formed by the DOTr.

The team is composed of Buri technical personnel who would be absorbed by the MRT 3 since their "roles are vital in maintenance works."

Apart from the current staff, Cesar Chavez, the transport undersecretary for rails, said that senior engineers from the Philippine National Railways and Light Rail Transit Authority would also join the team to ensure a smooth transition.

To rehabilitate the trains, Chavez said they would be purchasing the needed spare parts through "hybrid direct contracting."

He added that with the government now in charge of the MRT 3 maintenance, only trains that passed their standards would be deployed.

DOTr's promise

"In three to six months, we can improve the MRT 3, make it more safe and more reliable," Chavez assured riders.

In the past days, the country's busiest train system has been experiencing frequent breakdowns due to various technical problems. In fact, three trains off-loaded passengers on Monday, just a day after another caught fire.

Lawyer Maricris Pahate, Buri's counsel, however, said that it would be unfair to attribute all the breakdowns to the firm as they had repeatedly warned the government that problems currently besieging the train line would recur unless the rails were replaced.

The DOTr refuted this, saying that based on data, 54 percent of all train problems were due to rolling stock or the lack of spare parts while only 19 percent were because of rail issues.