The plan of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to tap Japanese assistance and Sumitomo’s re-engagement to rehabilitate Metro Rail Transit Line 3 is the wisest and most practical idea by far for quickly restoring the rail commuter service’s capability to serve its half-million passengers daily.
The MRT line has broken down badly and frequently, and too much time and money have been wasted on the wrong and unavailing solutions by the previous administration. The incumbent government of President Rodrigo Duterte must not gamble on a wrong-headed and untested solution, lest failure break the patience of the Filipino riding public and provoke disorderly protests.
The DoTr has announced ongoing high-level discussions with the government of Japan seek to pave the way for the Philippine government’s direct engagement of Sumitomo Corp. and technical partner Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for the MRT rehabilitation. They are working on a government-to-government agreement for the provision of official development assistance (ODA) by Japan.
The DOTR says that once the G2G agreement for an ODA is signed, Sumitomo, the maintenance and rehabilitation service contractor will be contracted pursuant to the rules of the government of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
The department explained the plan as follows:
“The joint venture of Sumitomo Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is being closely considered due to their background and experience with the MRT-3 – they designed and built the system from 1998 to 2000, and maintained the system from 2000 to 2012.”
It said that the proposed new maintenance and rehabilitation contract prescribes a term of three years and covers the rehabilitation and restoration of the system to its original performance standards.
The DOTr terminated the three-year maintenance contract of Busan Universal Rails Inc. on Nov. 6 because of its alleged inability to meet the performance indicators in the contract and failure to procure spare parts.
The department also disclosed that it is studying an unsolicited proposal for the 30-year operation and maintenance of MRT-3. An original proponent status was given to the proponent, Metro Pacific Light Rail Corp., and the proposal would soon be endorsed to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for further evaluation.
The two schemes do not conflict. They can complement each other. The DoTr explains it thus:
“The maintenance and rehabilitation service provider will be contracted ahead of the O&M provider to allow for the NEDA approval and Swiss Challenge process. When the O&M provider assumes the operation of MRT-3, they will also take in the maintenance and rehabilitation service provider that will be contracted earlier by DoTr.”
Metro Pacific has said that it plans to invest up to P20 billion in the rehabilitation and maintenance of MRT-3.
Both legs of the DoTr plan merit serious consideration.
The point that must not be missed is that the MRT Service should be restored to full capability at the quickest possible time. The disastrous mistakes of the past must be permanently left behind.
The Philippine government and its prospective partners should not lose sight of the stakes involved. MRT-3 today runs along EDSA from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City. It serves more than 500,000 passengers daily, beyond its rated capacity of 350,000 passengers. The line has a fleet of 73 Czech-made air-conditioned rail cars.
The riding public and the metropolis have a right to demand and get an improved and better metro rail service.