August 23, 2016 | Malaya Business Insight | Myla Iglesias

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has scrapped the previous administration's planned equity value buyout for Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line 3.

Noel Kintanar,DOTr undersecretary for rail, told reporters it is not the present government's priority to pursue the MRT-3 buyout.

"It's not on the table," Kintanar said.

Kintanar supports budget secretary Benjamin Diokno's statement that the MRT-3 buyout was not a priority, as the funds needed for the buyout were not included in the P3.35 trillion proposed national budget for 2017 submitted to Congress.

The government, meanwhile, will continue to pay the annual equity rental payments with Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC).

Kintanar said the government's priority is to improve MRT-3 services.

Within the next 100 days, DOTris targeting to improve MRT-3's operationsby running more trains, from 16 trains with 48 cars to 20 trains with 60 cars,and increasing train speed from 40 to 50 kilometers per hour.

This will reduce the headway or the waiting time from five minutes to 4.5 minutes which will increase passenger per destination from 14,184 to 15,760 in the first 100 days.

By December this year, DOTr targets to maintain operating 20 trains with a total of 60 cars and further increase the train speed from 50 to 60 kph, which will reduce the headway from 4.5 minutes to 3.75 minutes.

Earlier, transportation secretary Arthur Tugade said commuters should expect further improvements in MRT-3's operation in one year. DOTr will continue to operate all 20 trains and bring back the original speed of 60 kphtolower the headway from 3.75 minutes to 3 minutes.

This will be achieved by adding cars, completing replacement of the signaling system, and upgrading power supply.

To recall, the previous administration issued Executive Order No. 167 s. 2013 which taskedthe Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and the Department of Finance to implement the equity value buyout, to put an end to the ongoing arbitration case in Singapore between the DOTC and MRTC.

This will also terminate the concession agreement, end government's obligation to pay billions of pesos in equity rental payments to MRTC annually, and transfer ownership over the MRT-3 to government.

The congested MRT-3 has been operating beyond its design capacity of 350,000 passengers per day.