SENATOR Grace Poe on Wednesday filed a resolution calling for a Senate investigation into the reportedly anomalous Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) maintenance contract between the previous Aquino administration and Korean firm Busan Universal Rail Inc.
Poe wants the Senate Committee on Public Service, which she heads, to investigate, in aid of legislation, the supposedly inefficient management and maintenance of MRT-3 that has resulted in increased incidents of train malfunction.
The senator noted that since Busan took over the MRT-3 maintenance, the elevated train system has experienced various technical problems such as derailment, doors failing to close, and service interruptions, causing inconvenience and putting commuters’ safety at risk.
Poe cited news reports that the previous Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) leadership under then secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya contracted Busan under unusual circumstances—there was no public bidding for the three-year contract and that closed-door meetings were held prior to the signing of the deal.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) under the new administration has sent two memoranda to Busan, asking it to explain why its P3.8-billion maintenance contract should not be rescinded for non-performance since January 2016.
Busan, under the maintenance contract, was required to maintain all 73 coaches including the overhaul of 43 units.
One of Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez’s memoranda cited a Commission on Audit report that highlighted Busan’s inefficiencies for the period January to December 2016. This led to 2,619 incidents of train removals because of glitches.
There were also 63 incidents of service interruptions because of problems with the coaches, tracks, power supply and signaling. There were also 586 cases of passenger unloading.
Busan responded to the DOTr memorandum by blaming the condition of coaches, the weather, the lack of train lubricants, and even the slow delivery of parts from suppliers as reasons for the technical problems experienced by the MRT-3 line.
Apart from the MRT-3 maintenance problem, the investigation will also tackle the 48 new light rail vehicles (LRV) procured by the previous administration from Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stocks Co. that have remained unusable.
The LRV procurement was part of the MRT-3 capacity expansion project of Abaya, amounting to P3.8 billion. MRT-3 still can’t use the new coaches because of problems on their signaling system.
“Both contracts by the previous DOTC need to be re-examined as these involve billions of pesos, and directly affect and could possibly endanger the safety and convenience of thousands of commuters,” Poe stated in proposed Senate Resolution 355.
She maintained that Congress, in the exercise of its oversight function in aid of legislation, 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 transport sector, Poe said.