By Alex Magno (FIRST PERSON) | The Philippine Star | September 18, 2014

Before he left for his European sojourn, President Aquino announced that P5 billion will be released to help upgrade the services of the MRT-3. Fine.

The money will likely be handed over to APT Global, the current maintenance provider and source of all the MRT woes. The maintenance provider’s contract has been extended because, for some reason, the DOTC conveniently forgot its contract was expiring and did not schedule bidding punctually.

How lucky could APT Global be? They will be given more money to do exactly the things they should have done in the lapsed maintenance contract.

All the problems besetting the MRT began on October 19, 2012. That was the day Sumitomo’s maintenance contract was terminated and a new contract was awarded to service providers with no record for the job.

The reason given for terminating the Sumitomo contract was that the $2 million a month the company wanted was too expensive. Now, with all the numbers in, it turns out the MRT is actually paying more for the incompetent service provided by PH Trams and then by APT Global — two companies suspiciously linked by common shareholders.

DOTC pulled the wool over our eyes using an age-old trick: they chopped up the contract to make it appear that government saves money by using another service provider.

It is the same trick the DOTC used when they tried to argue that government will save money by moving the common station to Trinoma instead of SM North Edsa: by giving us numbers for a station that links LRT-1 and MRT-3 only and comparing that with the cost of building a common station according to the original plan that links the two lines plus the LRT-7 line. Of course, the new Trinoma “common station” will appear cheaper by P1 billion. But another P3 billion will be required to link that to the new line San Miguel will now begin building, plus the great inconvenience to commuters.

In the old contract with Sumitomo, “maintenance” included such things as traction motor replacement, rail steel replacement, regular overhauling of the cars and maintenance of spare parts inventory. In the subsequent contracts, traction motor and rail steel replacement were taken out of the scope of work.

If we add up all the costs, continuing with Sumitomo (and its original scope of work) would have actually resulted in savings for the MRT.

Had the DOTC continued with Sumitomo at $2 million a month, it would have paid the giant Japanese company a total of $116 million for the 58 months since October 2012. If we add the $11.5 million paid PH Trams and the $16.8 million paid APT Global to the $92.4 million in contracts the DOTC is bidding out for remedial jobs excluded from the scope of work of the two subsequent maintenance providers, the grand total will be $120.7 million — or $4.7 million more than if Sumitomo was retained.

This is the plain arithmetic that reveals the imperfection of the arrangement DOTC incompetently entered into with PH Trams and APT Global. Add to that the unquantifiable misery brought about because the two service providers did their jobs badly for two years. There has to be fraud here somewhere.

The DOTC took us for a ride by stripping down the maintenance contracts and then trying to make us believe money is being saved by getting new maintenance contractors. Either the DOTC is manned by fools or the wise guys there think they can make fools of us all.

On top of that, a seriously misinformed President finds the gall to blame the MRT woes on the previous administration.