• Abaya vows better MRT 3

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    The dilapidated and congested Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) will drastically improve before President Benigno Aquino 3rd finishes his term in June 2016.

    Secretary Joseph Abaya of the Department of Transportation and Communications made the promise a day after the President blamed the private sector’s failure to fulfill its maintenance obligations for setbacks to the train system.

    The private firm MRT Corp. (MRTC) owns the system, while the government manages it.

    But being the owner, it was MRTC that entered into contracts for MRT 3’s maintenance provider, Sumi¬tomo, which bagged a maintenance deal for 1999-2012.

    PH Trams took over the maintenance job in late October 2012 and it was replaced by Global-APT in September 2013.

    In his last State of the Nation Address (SONA), Aquino said MRT 3’s problems are being dealt with through the purchase of 48 new coaches, new rails and 12 new escalators, as well as the rehabilitation of 34 escalators and 32 elevators and upgrade of signaling and automatic fare collecting systems and power supply.

    In his SONA, Aquino said the MRTC has proved to be more of a hindrance than a partner.

    “The private sector relegated their responsibility to us; when we made moves to provide a solution, they blocked us. It is clear that our agenda and that of the MRTC will never meet. Now, we are taking steps to buy out the corporation,” he said.

    “Once this is fixed, the state will be the sole decision maker,” he stressed.

    But the government is not blameless.

    Directors of PH-Trams and Global-APT are close to former MRT 3 General Manager Al Vitangcol, who has been charged with graft by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales over the PH Trams MRT 3 maintenance deal of $1 million a month.

    PH Trams’ incorporator Arturo Soriano is an uncle of Vitangcol’s wife, a fact that Vitangcol unlawfully kept from members of the Bids and Awards Committee.

    In a press briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. echoed the Pre¬si¬dent’s position, adding that it is important to know what caused the problem to know the correct solutions.

    “Naniniwala ang Pangulo doon sa prinsipyong ‘correct analysis leads to correct solution.’ Ang pinupunto po dito, hindi natin mauunawaan kung bakit o paano nangyari ang mga kaganapang nasaksihan natin patungkol sa MRT kung hindi natin batid ‘yung nakaraang pinagdaanan,” he told reporters.

    Previously, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said it was eyeing loans to finance the complete government takeover of the MRT Line 3 since the P54 billion needed to effect the buy out was not included in the 2015 budget.

    Officials said they were considering borrowing from foreign sources or local banks to pursue the equity value buy out (EVBO) of the private shareholders of MRT-3.

    The planned buyout will terminate the concession agreement and transfer full ownership of the mass transit system to the government.

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