Marlon Purificacion | Journal Online | September 15, 2017
Senator Grace Poe yesterday called for an independent audit of the China-made trains which remained unusable due to incompatibility with existing facilities of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT).
During the Senate hearing of the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr's) proposed P75.6-billion budget for 2018, Poe pressed transport officials to hire an independent auditor that has no political affiliations to check whether the 48 coaches supplied by Chinese firm Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. Ltd. are safe and can be utilized in the capacity-burdened EDSA MRT-3.
"An independent auditor should come in," said Poe, pointing out that in the event the government returns the light rail vehicles to China, "the Philippine government will not be faulted without legitimate reasons behind it."
DOTr undersecretary for rails Cesar Chavez said that it was considering returning the 48 overweight MRT coaches to China, which cost the past administration P3.8 billion to purchase.
Chavez said DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade instructed them to get a third party qualifier to study whether the 48 coaches could still be used by the MRT.
"Ganito instructions ni Secretary Tugade. We can't compromise the safety of our passengers. Therefore, anong ginawa ng Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Pakistan? Kumuha ng third party certifier (We should just get a third party certifier). So what did we do? Number one, (we got) internationally known certifier, based in Germany and other certifiers," Chavez said.
Chavez said other governments have returned defective trains to Dalian, citing Singapore and Malaysia.
He said the department was constrained to deploy the new trains since the coaches do not have automatic train protection signals and are incompatible with the existing maintenance facilities.
"I already submitted a terms of reference to (DOTr Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Procurement Reinier Paul Yebra) providing him all the documents, 'yung request for quotation. In three months, after notice to proceed, anong ineexpect? "Yung audit niyan sasabihin pwede ba tumakbo o hindi o ibabalik na sa China," he added.
Chavez was responding to Senator Grace Poe's concern during the finance committee hearing on the DOTr's budget for 2018.
He added out of the 48 light rail vehicles that were delivered, only 29 have been installed with signaling system and only four trains can be deployed as revenue trains.
Dalian's contract, which was completed during the previous administration, states that the firm should have installed the signaling system that keeps safe distances between trains prior to the delivery to the country, Poe said.
MRT-3 rails can carry a maximum of 48,000 kgs, but the Dalian trains weigh heavier at 49,000 kgs per coach, which may put a strain on the rails, Chavez emphasized.
"Parang nagpipilit kang magsuot ng sapatos na size 5 pero size 7 ang paa mo," said Poe.
For his part, Chavez said out of the P3.8-billion contract cost, only P800 million have so far been paid by the Philippine government.