Mario Casayuran and Charissa Luci Atienza | Manila Bulletin | November 7, 2017

Two solons sought the privatization of the operations and management of the MRT3 following the numerous breakdowns it had recently.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian sought for the complete privatization of the operations and management of the trouble-plagued Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3 that runs from North SM EDSA, Quezon city to Avenue in Pasay city.

"Government is a poor operations manager. Time and time again, we have seen how poorly government operates a business endeavor," Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate economic affairs, issued the statement after the Department of Transportation (DOTr) officially terminated Monday its contract with its service provider Busan Universal Mail Inc. (BURI) because of alleged BURIs’ poor performance.

The DOTr said the Philippine National Railways (PNR) and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) would provide sufficient technical support and expertise for the smooth transition of MRT-3 maintenance work.

Gatchalian cited the cases of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the National Power Corporation (Napocor) and the various airports in the country, where government performance leaves much to be desired.

DOTr Undersecretary Cesar Chavez said there are three international firms that have signified intention to be the next service provider of MRT-3.These are Sumitomo Corporation of Japan; SMRT Corporation of Singapore; and RAPT Development, the service provider of LRT System Line 1.

"Sumitomo is a world-class and experienced company," Gatchalian said.

Under the Aquino administration, DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) officials threw out its contract with Sumitomo and entered into an agreement with APT Global corporation where one of its board of directors was related to a DOTC official.

After rescinding the contract with APT Global, DOTC awarded the service contract to BURI.

Gatchalian said that it is "about time to kick out BURI."

Meanwhile a House leader renewed his call to privatize the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 to make it more reliable and efficient in delivering services to about half a million passengers a day.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone called on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to ensure that the operations and services of the MRT 3 will be improved following its decision to terminate the maintenance contract with the Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI).

"The DOTr should should present to Congress with a viable alternative, if any, now that it has terminated its maintenance contract with BURI. DOTr should show and convince the public that MRT 3 will not further deteriorate its services without a maintenance provider," he said.

"Now that BURI has vowed to question the termination in court, the legal tussle between the two parties might drag on for months or years which may put MRT 3 services is jeopardy," he expressed concern.

He expressed hope that the DOTr made a fair-and-square decision when it decided to terminate the contract and to take over the maintenance of the MRT 3.

"Hopefully, the termination is not designed to just eased out BURI and replaced it with a favored maintenance provider," he said.

According to reports, the government will in the meantime, take over the maintenance services of MRT 3.

"The question is: are there competent technical people that can immediately takeover the maintenance of MRT 3? Second, how long can the government procure all the necessary parts needed to maintain MRT 3 given the very tedious procurement process under Republic Act 9184, or the procurement law," Evardone, chairman of the House Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries pointed out.

He said the DOTr should allay the fears of the public and convince them that with the termination of the maintenance contract, the MRT 3 services will substantially improve to alleviate the plight of the riding public.

"I still maintain that the best option is to totally privatized the MRT 3 to make it more efficient," he said.

Evardone earlier called on Congress to support the bid of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. to buy out the 77 percent stake of the government in MRT 3.

Metro Pacific chair Manuel V. Pangilinan earlier said they are "prepared" to do the buy-out and rehabilitate and upgrade the MRT-3, which may cost some P12.5 billion.

He said no formal offer has been made, and there was no final amount yet.

"To me, this is the best solution to improve the services of MRT 3. MRT 3 should be privatized to make it more efficient as a public mass transport system," Evardone said.

He also proposed that Congress should immediately pass the bill seeking to establish a single regulatory body for all mass transit facilities. The measure was filed by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.