THE arbitration proceedings against the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), which was filed by the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), owner of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), has begun before the Singapore International Arbitration Center.
MRT Holdings (MRTH) counsel David Narvasa on Wednesday said that a notice of arbitration has been given to the DOTC on January 21.
“The main action is the arbitration case in Singapore. The arbitration case in Singapore will determine who has the rights to capacity expansion for the MRT-3,” he added.
The dispute stemmed from the DOTC’s decision to purchase 48 light rail vehicles (LRVs) from CNR Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. as part of the MRT-3 capacity expansion project, despite an existing build-lease-transfer agreement with MRTC, which remains valid until 2025.
“The timetable will depend on how soon the arbitration tribunal can be constituted in Singapore. That is why the petition before the Makati Regional Trial Court [RTC] needed to be filed for interim relief,” Narvasa said.
Makati RTC Branch 66 Presiding Judge Joselito Villarosa earlier granted MRTC’s prayer for a 20-day temporary order of protection to stop the DOTC from buying the new LRVs.
In an earlier statement, MRTH said that its owner-shareholders could provide additional trains for MRT-3 at no additional cost to the Aquino administration. It invoked MRTC’s legal right to supply the light rail vehicles under the BLT agreement.
“MRTC has the contract to build the MRT-3 system as well as to add trains or additional spur lines connected to the MRT-3. How can DOTC unilaterally usurp the rights of MRTC?” the company said.
MRTH said that the private sector made a proposal to the DOTC a few years ago to provide additional trains for MRT-3 at no cost to government, and pursuant to the public-private partnership (PPP) program.
“If DOTC was really in a rush to put trains, why haven’t they acted on the proposal of the private sector to supply trains at the private sector’s exclusive cost? This proposal includes running the operations of the MRT-3 system to replace the inefficient operationsof the DOTC,” MRTH said.
“How can DOTC use public funds—taxpayer money—to pay for trains that will be used by a privately owned company for its MRT-3 system?” it added.
Ultimately, while it is DOTC that has control of the operations of the MRT-3, including maintenance, it is the MRTC that is responsible for the efficient and safe operations of the rail system as stipulated in the BLT Agreement.
The DOTC, for its part, has blamed MRTC for not adding new trains to the system in the past years.