Malacañang on Monday said the public should not take literally what President Benigno Aquino 3rd said in jest that he would have himself and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya run over by a train if the project extending the Light Railway Transit (LRT) to Cavite will not be completed in 2015.
“The statement should not be taken literally,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said as he referred to a speech made by the President in Dasmariñas City in Cavite in April 2013.
The President, who was then campaigning for his senatorial ticket, gave his word that the LRT project, which would extend the railway from Baclaran in Paranaque City (Metro Manila) to Bacoor in Cavite would be completed in 2015.
“At pag hindi ho nangyari ito, nandyan ho si Secretary Abaya na nangangasiwa ng proyektong ito, dalawa na kaming magpapasagasa siguro sa train [If that will not happen, there’s Secretary Abaya, who is supervising the project. The two of us whould have ourselves run over by a train],” Aquino said.
The project remains stalled as the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is yet to issue a notice to proceed to the contractor, Light Rail Manila Corp.
Abaya said delays were caused by failure of the project’s bidding process.
The project is expected to start in the middle of 2016.
“The President was speaking with a sense of urgency when he announced his desire to see the project within two years,” Coloma said.
“Any reasonable person would understand this to have been an aspirational statement. Despite the delays, the government continues to pursue the project,” he added.
Meanwhile, the local representative of a German rail technology firm, Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik GmbH (SBI), has elevated to Malacañang the case of embattled Metro Rail Transit 3 train and signalling systems joint venture contractor- Schunk Bahn – Comm Builders & Technology (SBI-CBT JV) on their unsolicited proposal for a P4.65- billion rehabilitation and restoration of the MRT 3 submitted to the Transportation department last March 2.
Rolf Bieri, authorized representative of SBI, has written a three-page “open letter” to President Aquino, claiming that the DOTC has not acted upon their unsolicited proposal, and had even gone on to hold public tenders for a P4.3-billion MRT 3 rehabilitation and maintenance contract that subsequently failed, and had then resorted to “emergency procurement negotiations” to which they were not even invited.
The DOTC only invited them to the negotiations after the SBI-CBT authorized representative Roehl “Boyett” Bacar, rushed to submit a letter to DOTC Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, the head of the DOTC Negotiating Team handling the “emergency negotiated procurement,” signifying their desire to join the negotiations, citing they were the incumbent six-month MRT 3 train and signalling systems maintenance contractor, and had even submitted an unsolicited proposal, which meant that they should have been included among the invitees to the “emergency negotiated procurement” pre-negotiation meetings.
Last week, the DOTC announced that they have awarded a P3.8-billion contract to a “joint venture” of Busan Transportation Corporation, Edison Development & Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMICorp Inc. and Castan Corporation.
While they had a pending unsolicited proposal not acted upon, the SBI-CBT JV, upon learning of a move of the DOTC to hold “emergency negotiations” for the contract, had submitted a competing offer to rehabilitate and maintain the MRT 3 primarily based on their unsolicited proposal for a “systematic and comprehensive” rehabilitation of the MRT 3 systems that already takes into consideration the additional trains supposedly procured by the DOTC to address congestion woes at the rail line.
The DOTC Negotiating Team, however, had refused to accept their offer, saying it was submitted late by “45 minutes.”
“May we earnestly appeal that our proposal be opened and that the technical aspects be deliberated and be given the same chance and preference as with the lowest offeror whom the time element of negotiation is still in effect even after official proceedings,” Bieri said in his letter.
“May we also take this opportunity to express our disappointment on the way the Rehabilitation and Maintenance Negotiation Team of the DOTC had treated our offer for the Negotiated Procurement for DOTC-MRT3 Systems Maintenance Service Provider, 43 LRV General Overhauling and Total Replacement of Signaling System. At first, we were disregarded, being the incumbent short-term rolling stocks maintenance provider, by not inviting us in the negotiation thereof,” he added.
“After representations have been made by us, we were eventually invited. However, the convenience of complying with the terms of reference [TOR] were only provided to the few, and the element of time by not accepting our technical offer is up to now confusing,” Bieri said, referring to the DOTC Negotiating Team’s failure to invite them to the pre-negotiation conference last October.
The basis of disqualification of SBI-CB&T Group (Joint Venture) was allegedly the late submission of SBI-CB&T’s compliance documents. Compliance documents were those inadvertently not included during the opening of eligibility and technical offers,” he added.
“However, the entire proceedings during the opening of compliance documents [were]not in [themselves]unblemished of tardiness. Prior to the submission, SBI-CB&T explained the need for a few minutes for the arrival of its authenticated documents. It was denied, [which]caused us surprise, expecting DOTC to give equal opportunities [to]competitors and offerors, this being an emergency procurement,” Bieri said.
“The time element for disqualification violates DOTC’s own rules by continuously changing procedures and terms even after finality of the negotiation proceedings onward,” he pointed out.
“Moreover, clarifications on whether technical compliances such as OEM (original equipment manufacturer) preference, rail grinding equipment compliance and post-qualifications of local partners and capabilities are illogically overturned by the lowest bid rules of the law,” Bieri noted.
“In consideration of our familiarity with the train and OEM parts access—the trains beyond the eight-year overhaul and without upgrades [upgrades are parts periodically modified for the train brand to improve to safety and convenience features]—we see more logic to rely on the technical proposal than the price considering this may lead to consequences of not just rescinding from the original functionality of the components and train model being considerably obsolete but more to the safety risk of the riding public,” he said.
Bieri and Bacar earlier expressed confidence that their tandem, along with German rail firm Heag mobilo, and their unsolicited proposal would put an end to the perennial systems woes at the MRT 3, and will level up the operations of the rail line to world-class.
Under the unsolicited proposal submitted last March and meant for a “Swiss challenge” if it had been acted upon by the DOTC, the group said the basic plan is to initially mobilize rehabilitation where time and work windows are flexible and station facilities would be given priority.
Compared to the other proposals provided, the group said its proposal would address the ancillary power, considered the 48 new trains to be supplied by a Chinese firm and set up a new stabling area, new elevators and escalators, new public address system, public information system, new toilets, platform gates, CCTV, signaling system, rail replacement and rail grinding at a mere P4.65 billion.
The group’s unsolicited proposal also aimed at restoring two trains every 45 days to allow a lead time of eight to 12 months before the rolling stock is turned over to the government.
According to the proposal, the system rehabilitation to be completed in three to four years has a limited downtime of four hours to make sure that the operations of MRT 3 would not be disrupted.
Aside from the limited maintenance downtime, the group said its proposal ensures that only one entity would control the system rehabilitation composed of efficient and experienced parts integrators with global network.
WITH FRANCIS EARL A. CUETO