The Transportation department continues to push for a government buyout of Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) and hopes to complete this before a new administration steps in next year.
“We want to push it,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya told reporters on Wednesday, adding: “The execution might happen next year.”
The Aquino administration has called for an equity value buyout (EVBO) of MRT-3 owner Metro Rail Holdings, Inc. II (MRTH-II) but plans were stalled after Congress realigned the P53.9 billion allotted in this year’s budget.
Mr. Abaya, who said that pursuing the EVBO would “solve a lot of headaches for whoever replaces us,” claimed that the “challenge is not the budget. The real challenge is now really talking with the GFIs (government financial institutions) and talking with the DOF (Department of Finance).”
One of the options being eyed by the government is taking out loans or tapping revenues of state-owned firms for the buyout.
“We’re scheduling that within the month,” Abaya said of the planned meetings with the GFIs and the DOF.
He was also hopeful the Congress would finally include it in next year’s budget.
Under Executive Order 167, the Transportation and Finance departments were mandated to implement the buyout to end a dispute with MRTH-II-controlled Metro Rail Transit Corp.
The buyout will terminate a concession agreement and transfer ownership of the MRT-3 to the government, saving billions of pesos in equity rental payments.
Continued payments, Abaya said, have pared the amount owed to less than the P53.9 billion.
The Transportation department, which runs the MRT-3 along with MRTC, started fast-tracking upgrades to the rail line in September.
Major upgrades that are underway include the addition of 48 new train cars and the automation of the railway ticketing system.