The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is ready to defend public interest and argue its case on the need to add 48 new Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) to the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) system before the Regional Trial Court of Makati.
“Passenger safety and convenience demand that the project proceed immediately. MRTC has received over P35.2 billion in equity rental payments since 2000,” said Michael Arthur Sagcal, DOTC spokesman.
He added that, “Yet it has added zero LRVs, knowing full well that MRT-3 has been operating beyond capacity for years. MRT Holdings II must answer the obvious question: Why hasn’t it added LRVs to MRT-3 all this time?”
Acting on a petition filed by Metro Rail Transit Holdings II Inc., a Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) issued a 20-day temporary order of protection on January 20, preventing the transport agency from buying additional LRVs for the MRT-3.
While having no contractual relationship, the DOTC said that MRT Holdings II should be held accountable for Metro Rail Transit Corp.’s (MRTC) failure to add much-needed train coaches to the rail line, after it claimed to own 100 percent of MRTC.
The rail transit line has an original design capacity of only 350,000 passengers a day. According to current MRT-3 data, the average daily ridership is now 560,000 passengers, while the highest recorded was at 620,000.
But at the Makati RTC, Robert John Sobrepeña, former MRTC chairman, said that they did not waive their right of first refusal for the purchase of brand new additional trains for MRT-3.
“Our offer to supply brand-new LRVs to the DOTC is still valid and existing,” he told presiding judge Joselito Villarosa of the Makati RTC Branch 66.
During the direct examination, Sobrepeña said that MRTC started proposing for the improvement of the MRT-3 system, which included the purchase of additional brand-new trains, in 2000.
He added that the MRTC proposal to buy new trains was approved in 2000 by the National Economic Development Authority.
“Our offer with DOTC was to supply brand-new trains, everything brand new including the system capacity expansion,” Sobrepeña said.
However, despite several attempts, he added, the government did not immediately accept their offer as it waited for a “triggering event.”
“The triggering event is that the MRT-3 should reach 350,000 passengers everyday because that is the maximum limit of the ridership capacity,” he added.
When the triggering event was reached in 2003, Sobrepeña said this gave them the green light to proceed with the proposal in 2004 for the capacity expansion, and improving the MRT-3 signaling system.
The DOTC, in turn, agreed and even formed a technical working team to study the MRTC’s offer, according to Sobrepeña.
However, Sobrepeña said the idea of purchasing second hand trains was floated by the DOTC when its officials attended a public hearing at the House Transportation Committee.
“We offered brand-new trains for expansion. That offer is still pending but the reply of the DOTC was to supply second-hand trains,” Sobrepeña said.
He, however, stressed that MRTC is still open for negotiations with the government for the purchase of brand new LRVs for the MRT-3.