More Setbacks Ahead? DOTr In Constant Dispute over MRT-3’s Maintenance Provider

Cherryl Anne Cruz

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is locking horns with MRT-3’s maintenance provider Busan Universal Rails Inc. (BURI) over its constant glitches and train stoppages that happen daily.

And DOTr Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez is not happy about it.

Passengers unloading from the MRT-3

“In one and a half years, BURI has failed to maintain a safe and reliable MRT-3 system, with 98 service interruptions and 833 passenger unloadings or almost twice a day, punctuated by unprecedented train derailments in April, May, and June 2017,” Chavez said.

And it still continues even today. Yesterday alone, a “sudden stop” accident that happened early morning involved an MRT-3 operator and two passengers, a 30-year old woman and a 68-year old man.

Later on, five more “technical problems” required them to unload the passengers out of the train. These were in Santolan (7:12am), Shaw (7:13am), Magallanes (8:15am), and twice in Boni (8:22am and 9:11am) stations.

Petition to “Terminate the Contract”

Usec. Cesar Chavez at a hearing

Chavez has already signed a position paper to terminate its P3.8 billion contract with the Korean-Filipino company, and is now being reviewed by the Office of the Undersecretary for Legal Affairs.

This was after the Senate hearing on MRT-3’s derailment last May.

“It is clear to us that the maintenance service provider is not procuring the proper spare parts, consumables, and capital spares for MRT-3,” he explained.

“Fake spare parts”

Last August 2017, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Partylist Representative Jericho Nograles filed House Resolution No. 1212 to investigate why construction company / parts supplier, Diamond Pearl Marketing and Development Corporation is supplying the MRT-3 P4 million worth of fake spare parts. The original capitalization expense should only be P3 million.

According to government records, it should be the Bombardier System that should be supplying the train for spare parts.

And interestingly enough, records show that BURI has never even purchased a single screw from the said supplier.

Rep. Nograles also added that the “fake” spare parts involved are mostly used for vehicle logic units, which are the “brains of the main safety equipment of the MRT-3.” Its one important feature is the “Automatic Train Protection System”, whose primary function is to stop during an imminent collision or unintentional door openings (by passengers).

Ending the contract “unfair”

BURI’s legal counsel and spokesperson, Charles Mercado, said the spare parts accusations are false.

To set the record straight, it is untrue that BURI has not been procuring proper spare parts. When BURI started its contract in January 2016, only 40 of MRT3’s 72 cars were running. These 40 cars were enough for only 13 3-car trains. The other cars were inoperable and had many missing parts,” he said.

Meanwhile, BURI stressed that the MRT-3’s problems can be traced back to its “inherent design and quality” almost 20 years ago, and isn’t just caused by “normal wear and tear or poor maintenance works.”

BURI also contends that one of the main problems for the glitches is that the rails needed to be fixed first. This is DOTr’s job, and isn’t part of their contract.

Who really should maintain and operate the MRT-3?

MRT-3

It’s not just the maintenance problems, but also the setup that’s apparently causing the problem. Currently, the government and the private sector both run the MRT-3 at the same time.

More specifically, the government would run and operate MRT-3, while MRT-3 owner MRT Group of Companies (MRT Holdings Inc.) is in charge of upkeep through maintenance provider Sumitomo Corp. However, in 2012, the government decided to let go of Sumitomo, and opted to hire unqualified maintenance providers, instead.

“Nagkakaturuan (They’re pointing fingers at each other). To me, that is the main problem. It’s either the government or the private sector should run it,” Rogelio Singson told ANC’s Headstart. His company, the Light Rail Transit’s (LRT) Manila, is the sole operator and maintenance provider of LRT-1.

Rogelio Singson, LRT Manila president

“It’s more effective to have private sectors handle the rail operations, since the government is bound by very strict procurement laws,” Singson said.

Singson also added that the government needs to go to bidding first before they can find someone to do things for them. This is unlike private institutions where they have the freedom to choose whichever they want immediately once something is in need of repair.

According to him, private companies such as Metro Pacific Investments Corporation of Manny Pangilinan together with the Ayala Group (and Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) PTE Ltd), have submitted an unsolicited proposal to rehabilitate and improve the MRT-3. The projected cost would be  around P12.5 billion.

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