By Jarius Bondoc | The Philippine Star | November 5, 2014

Separate biddings for the maintenance of two railways in Metro Manila failed in succession last week. No bidders showed up for both the Light Rail Transit (LRT)-1 and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3.

Expect this month’s bidding for the upkeep of LRT-2 to be empty as well. That’s precisely the intent of the Dept. of Transportation and Communications.

As biddings flop by design, DOTC bigwigs are able to extend the current maintenance contractors. The contractors are officers of the ruling Liberal Party, of which DOTC Sec. Joseph Abaya is president.

The amount for MRT-3’s maintenance was tantalizing: P2.2 billion ($49.2 million) for three years. Yet none of the initially interested firms submitted bids last Oct. 28. They included DMCI Holdings, MiescoRail Inc. (of Meralco), Busan Metro of Korea, Mosa-Inekon joint venture of the Czech Republic, and SMRT International Pte. Ltd.

Sources said the parties found the deal hazy. The DOTC did not answer their basic questions. Like, how many trains are running or busted, how many tracks need replacing, what spare parts are on stockpile, what the DOTC plans about the signaling system.

The Bid Bulletin No. 09-2014, posted on the DOTC website, tells it all. In answering the parties’ queries, U-Sec. Jose Perpetuo Lotilla kept pointing them to a 2010 audit. That audit was when Sumitomo of Japan still was servicing the MRT-3. From press reports and MRT-3 managers’ admissions, the rail has since deteriorated under two sets of crony maintainers. Those are: PH-Trams and CommBuilders & Transport, Oct. 2012-Aug. 2013; and Autre Porte Technique and Global Epcom Services, Sept. 2013-present.


PH Trams, as exposed in this column, consists of LP members. Chairman Marlo dela Cruz was its main campaigner in Pangasinan in the 2010 and 2013 elections. Incorporator-director Wilson de Vera ran but lost for LP mayor of Calasiao, Pangasinan. Art Soriano, the Pangasinan provincial accountant, is the uncle-in-law of then-MRT-3 general manager Al S. Vitangcol. CB&T’s president, Roehl Bacar, also ran but lost for LP councilor of Mandaluyong City.

No public bidding, only closed-door negotiations, were held for the PH Trams-CB&T deal, that totaled P517.5 million for ten months. Abaya, Lotilla, and Vitangcol signed the contract.

Since the bidding last Oct. 28 failed, the MRT-3 is retaining APT-Global as maintenance contractor, for P63 million a month. APT is the long-time maintainer of LRT-2. Global, newly revived, has the same Marlo dela Cruz, of the LP and PH Trams, as official representative. A silent partner is a ranking official of the Philippine National Railways.

Dela Cruz claims to have resigned from the APT-Global since early Aug., and has notified Lotilla. Last Sept. 5, however, Lotilla issued a memo to dela Cruz informing him of their extension on monthly basis.

CB&T is the long-time maintainer of LRT-1. It too will be extended due to the failed bidding last Oct. 24.

The amount up for grabs was tantalizing as well: P423.3 million ($9.5 million) for one year. But as in the MRT-3 bidding, the firms that initially expressed interest did not show up on the appointed date. These are: Autre Porte Technique, Global Epcom Services, and MiescoRail.

Again the parties found the prospects cloudy. The bidding framework was flawed from the start. The contract is only for one year, yet the DOTC expects the winner to invest in machines, costing P300 million, for maintenance of trains and tracks. Compounding that is the DOTC’s inability to guarantee that the Ayala-Metro Pacific consortium, which will extend the LRT-1 into Cavite, will recognize the winner as the maintenance contractor.

Meanwhile, prospective bidders for the LRT-2 maintenance are restive. The bidding has been postponed five times since June, because the DOTC can’t produce coherent terms of reference. Dozens of provisos are being questioned. Foremost is why the DOTC will grant a contract for three years, but which it unilaterally may shorten to only one year.

When that bidding fails too, APT will retain its present service contract.

President Noynoy Aquino, LP chairman-emeritus, has ignored the DOTC’s corrupt contracting. Recently he blamed the past administration for the MRT-3’s frequent accidents and breakdowns. The DOTC contract awarders took that to mean business as usual.