By Lawrence Agcaoili | The Philippine Star | January 7, 2016
MANILA, Philippines - The Korean-Filipino group that bagged a P3.8-billion contract to maintain the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3) has not backed out from the three-year deal, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said yesterday.
Sources, however, said South Korea’s Busan Transportation Corp. wanted out of the deal and was willing merely to provide technical advice amid concerns about legal problems that might arise from the award of the contract without public bidding.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the DOTC was in talks with representatives of the joint venture of Busan, Edison Development & Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMICorp Inc. and Castan Corp. over the past few days.
“They haven’t backed out. In fact, they are serious in rendering services and sharing their expertise. The DOTC has been discussing with them for the last two days,” Abaya said.
The DOTC could not explain why it proposed a one-month extension of the previous contract, which lapsed on Jan. 4. The sources said this was due to Busan’s move to get out of the controversial deal.
The DOTC announced last Dec. 24 that it has awarded the long-term maintenance contract to the joint venture company. The deal covers the general overhaul of trains and the total replacement of the signaling system.
The winning concessionaire was supposed to take over the mass rail transit along EDSA last Tuesday. However, the takeover of the general maintenance requirements of the MRT 3 did not materialize.
Instead, the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the DOTC issued a resolution extending the one-year maintenance contract of German-Filipino joint venture group Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik-Comm Builders & Technology Philippines (SBI-CBT JV) that lapsed last Jan. 4 by one more month for P21 million.
The SBI-CBT JV has filed before the Office of the Ombudsman charges of neglect and misconduct against DOTC Undersecretary Edwin Lopez, MRT 3 general manager Roman Buenafe and several other MRT 3 executives for P102 million in unpaid billings.
After initially turning down the contract extension, SBI-CBT JV and president of CB&T Philippines Roehl Bacar said the MRT 3 maintenance provider was willing to cooperate with the DOTC for the implementation of a “win-win” solution, namely, that the new deal be awarded to his group.
Bacar said the DOTC could easily salvage the worsening situation and prevent operations of the MRT 3 from being affected by reconsidering their standing offer for the P4.3-billion budgeted three-year MRT maintenance contract, train general overhaul and signaling systems replacement.
He insisted his group’s offer was superior to that of the Busan group in the sense that SBI-CBT had the solid technical expertise in maintenance of European-built trains.
The SBI-CBT group earlier submitted an unsolicited proposal for MRT 3 worth P4.6 billion in February last year, covering the major rehabilitation of all 73 trains, signaling and other systems.
The DOTC negotiating team that headed the emergency procurement negotiations to select a winning group, led by DOTC Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, had disqualified SBI-CBT for submitting their offer 45 minutes late.
SBI-CBT had appealed the disqualification, saying as an emergency negotiated procurement, deadlines should be relaxed by the DOTC for it to get the best and most responsive offer from the most technically capable group.
Bacar pointed out the serious deficiencies of the Korean-Filipino group, including the lack of the required 15-year experience in the rail industry.
“The backing out of the Busan group is actually for the good of everybody concerned, most especially the 600,000 riders of the MRT daily, because it paves the way for us to be the one to possibly implement a comprehensive, systematic rehabilitation of the 43 MRT trains, totally replace the signaling systems and maintain it for three years,” Bacar said.
Sen. Grace Poe, on the other hand, called on President Aquino to replace Abaya over the bungled deals for the maintenance contract of MRT 3.
“This situation is critical and the safety of the riding public is in peril. With the seemingly nonchalant stance of the DOTC and MRT management in not being upfront about this circumstance, I urge the good President to step in, take control of the DOTC and pull together all the needed government resources at its disposal to address the situation,” Poe said.
Poe said the President should not wait for Abaya to resign but must “replace him immediately.”
Poe stressed the public can no longer tolerate any more delays in upgrading the MRT facilities.