By Lenie Lectura | Businessmirror Philippines | February 7, 2014

THE Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) on Friday questioned the motive of the transportation department for junking its proposal to rehabilitate the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3), a move that could have save the government billions of pesos.

“If the DOTC [Department of Transportation and Communications] was really in a rush to put trains, why haven’t they acted on the proposal of the private sector to supply trains at private sector’s exclusive cost? This proposal includes running the operations of the MRT 3 system to replace the inefficient operations of the DOTC, which is causing the government to subsidize the MRT 3 billions of pesos every year,” said lawyer David Narvasa, spokesman for MRT Holdings.

MRTC, through its shareholder MRT Holdings, built the railway system. Under its contract with the government, it believes that it also holds the right to expand the capacity of the MRT 3 by adding more light-rail vehicles (LRVs).

Narvasa said that MRTC proposed to provide additional trains for MRT-3 at no cost to the government a few years ago.

“How can the DOTC unilaterally usurp the rights of MRTC? This alone would save hundreds of millions of taxpayer money with smooth and efficient operations which will make the MRT-3 more friendly to its passengers,” Narvasa said.

MRTC issued the statement after the Regional Trial Court in Makati City ordered a 20-day temporary protection order (TPO), which essentially stopped the agency from purchasing 48 LRVs from CNR Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co., the Chinese company that won the contract to expand the capacity of the MRT 3.

MRTC still insists that it could provide additional trains for MRT-3 at no cost to the government as it invoked its right to supply the LRVs under the build-lease-transfer (BLT) contract it signed with the government.

“MRTC can exercise its rights and supply trains to the MRT 3 system within a timely manner. This will assure compatibility with the existing system, and ensure safety and efficiency to the commuting public. This proposal will be made in accordance with terms and conditions of existing agreements between MRTC and the DOTC,” he said. This was also the basis of the court’s issuance of the TPO. Narvasa said the DOTC failed to seek the MRTC’s consent.

Presiding Judge Joselito Villarosa of Branch 66 of the RTC in

Makati granted the petition of the MRTC and the MRT Holdings II Inc. seeking for a preliminary injunction “as interim measure of protection” through the immediate issuance of a 20-day temporary order of protection” against the DOTC.

Villarosa restrained the DOTC “from performing any and all acts related in any manner to its procurement of additional LRVs for the MRT 3 and from committing any act tending to usurp and to violate the rights of MRTC under...the BLT agreement.”

During the hearing on Friday, the Office of the Solicitor General, which represents the DOTC, asked for more time to file a comment and opposition to the injunction order being sought by MRTC to stop the DOTC from implementing its contract to purchase of 48 LRVs.

The court granted the request and gave it until February 12 to submit the comment and opposition. It also ordered the resetting of the hearing to February 13.

The MRTCL entered into a build-lease-transfer agreement with the DOTC in 1999 to construct and maintain MRT 3.

Villarosa underscored that among the rights assigned to MRTCL and MRTC under the BLT agreement was a provision in paragraph 5.2 that it would only lose its preferential right to supply light-rail vehicles in either one of two instances: a) if the MRTC is in breach of its obligation under the BLT agreement; or b) if the MRTC consents to the DOTC’s use of light rail vehicles which were not provided by MRTC.

However, the DOTC awarded the capacity-expansion contract to Dalian last month.

“The court finds that the reasons given by the petitioners are meritorious. The Court hinges its ruling on the fact that petitioners have neither breached their obligation under the agreement or much more gave its consent to the DOTC pursuant to section 5.2 of their agreement,” the judge said.