• Ex transport execs to face Senate probe over MRT-3

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    FORMER transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya will appear before a senate inquiry on Monday to explain the controversial contracts entered into by the Transportation Department during the previous administration that are being blamed for the current Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3) mess.

    Information provided by the Senate committee on public services led by Sen. Grace Poe, said that Abaya has confirmed his attendance in the committee hearing that will focus on the reported inefficient management and maintenance of the MRT 3 resulting in increasing incidents of train malfunction and the newly-delivered Dalian trains that remain unusable.

    The maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI), and the procurement of new light rail vehicle (LRV) both amounting to more than P3 billion were signed during Abaya’s time as secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).

    The current Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade as well as former and current MRT officials have also been summoned to provide the committee the complete picture of the situation of one of Metro Manila’s main elevated train systems.

    According to Poe, Abaya has a lot of explaining to do in so far as the MRT maintenance and new LRV procurement contracts are concerned because it is the people’s money that were used in the deals.

    The senator in an earlier statement said lingering questions remain as to why the previous administration failed to check the compatibility of the train design despite much hype about MRT’s capacity expansion and that more commuters would be accommodated.

    Abaya, told a senate inquiry in November 2015 that MRT would be able to increase its passenger capacity and improve its services to the riding public with the arrival of new trains and awarding of the tree-year maintenance contract.

    The former DOTC secretary in the same hearing also said that three to six train coaches would arrived by the first half of the 2016 and the rest of the orders probably by end of that year.

    But up to now the MRT management has not been able to use even a single brand new couch and current MRT officials already announced that they won’t be able to make the new LRV operational until 2018 because of issues on the signaling system, train tracks, and power supply.

    “There’s something that they [past transport officials]didn’t do that’s why these things aren’t compatible. The parts that they ordered aren’t even compatible with each other,” Poe said earlier.

    Poe’s committee will also ask Abaya to explain the multi-billion peso maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI), a Filipino-Korean joint venture that started maintenance and restoration works in January 2016 on the ageing MRT.

    The senator cited in her resolution several memoranda DOTr Undersecretary for Rails and Toll Roads Cesar Chavez sent to BURI over its supposed “non-performance.”

    DOTr wants BURI to explain why its P3.8 billion contract should not be rescinded over poor maintenance works on all 73 coaches and overhaul of 43 coaches.

    It was learned that no coaches have been turned over, delivered or accepted despite the agreement that 17 of 43 train coaches should have been initially overhauled.

    Poe in calling for the inquiry maintained that the exercise of the Senate’s oversight functions, “should ensure a safe, decent and efficient public transportation system, thus, inept and corrupt government officials should not go unpunished for entering into anomalous and patently disadvantageous contracts in the public transportation sector.”

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