MRT-3 official: No more long lines by December

(CNN Philippines, May 15) — There will be no more long lines at the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) once train authorities add more train coaches by the end of the year, an MRT official said Monday.

At the Senate probe on MRT-3 contracts and maintenance issues, Officer-in-charge for Operations Engr. Deo Leo N. Manalo said the number of active MRT-3 coaches will increase from 60 to 80 by December once the MRT upgrades its power supply.

Manalo assured Sen. Franklin Drilon who asked about the long lines and said,"By end of the year sir sigurado pong mawawala na yung pila [the long lines will disappear]."

The MRT-3 runs 20 three-coach trains during peak hours due to power constraints, despite the arrival this year of the additional 48 coaches from a 2014 deal between Chinese company Dalian Locomotive Corp. and the Aquino administration.

Manalo said once the MRT-3's power supply is augmented, the DOTr will increase MRT capacity by converting its three-coach trains to four-coach ones and adding five new trains from the newly purchased cars.

Manalo added the 48 coaches acquired from the past administration's P3.8 billion deal with Dalian are in their testing period.

He said by June,  two trains from Dalian are expected to be used during off-peak hours between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The MRT has a ridership of 500,000 people daily, which is projected to reach 800,000 by 2019.

Read more: Passengers irked as MRT suffers technical glitch anew

Contract termination

In the same hearing, DOTr authorities said they were planning to terminate the MRT-3's contract with its maintenance provider, Busan Universal Rail Incorporated (BURI), in light of the latter's lapses in fulfilling its contract.

At the hearing, Atty. Hernando Cabrera from the Office of the Undersecretary for Railways said BURI failed to procure spare parts for the train, and was unable to maintain the MRT, which has so far averaged 33 glitches per month in 2017.

BURI was hired by the DOTr in 2015 and is the local counterpart of South Korean railway giant Busan Universal Rail Incorporated, although the latter only owns 4.6 percent of its shares.

The company's three-year contract with the DOTr is effective until January 2019.

BURI however, has claimed it is not to blame for the MRT's malfunctions.

Read more: Maintenance provider: Old trains cause of MRT problems

At the hearing, the company reasoned the MRT's tracks were responsible for the MRT's glitches.

BURI added, the company had informed authorities that the general overhauling of 43 light rail vehicle units, a provision in its contract, would be delayed because the old equipment for the train is no longer manufactured.

Manalo, however, said he did not receive the said letter regarding the rescheduling.

Plagued by issues

The Senate also questioned supposedly anomalous contracts signed by the past administration.

This includes the awarding of short-term contracts to "dubious" maintenance providers and the alleged incompatibility between MRT parts sourced from different countries.

At the hearing, former DOTC Sec. Jun Abaya, who replaced then-DOTC Sec. Mar Roxas in 2012 after Roxas was appointed Interior Secretary, admitted  he signed contracts with maintenance providers of MRT-3 without necessarily going through the nitty gritty of the contract.

He said he presumed that he trusted his men and was confident enough that the contracts were done in good faith.

"I don't know the details of the negotiations that were done and all I did was sign; not signing the contract would have meant stopping the trains," he said.

Read more: Grace Poe calls for probe on MRT

Poe, however, expressed disappointment over Abaya's reasoning, saying his job was to serve Filipino taxpayers first.

"Clearly, he's saying it's not his fault… your job is not to cover up for the past mistakes…your primary job…(is) to make sure that the Filipino taxpayers are given the proper service. Maybe it's true that these things were already in place and you wanted a smooth transition, but in the very beginning, it should have been made clear who was responsible for all of these," she said in her closing statement.

Poe also took note of a certain Marlo dela Cruz, who is said to be an incorporator and whose signatures are in almost all contracts entered into by the government.

Dela Cruz is connected to PH Trams and APT Global, both of which served as short-term maintenance providers for the MRT.

Poe said glitches with the MRT began after the DOTC started to award short-term contracts to these "dubious" maintenance providers in 2012.

"I would also like to investigate further the involvement of Marlo dela Cruz. I feel that it is a bit suspect that ang isang kumpanya na iilan lang buwan pa lamang [a company that's only been around for a few months]… Ilang buwan pa lang ang kumpanyang yan, nanalo na ng bid. [The company's only been around for a few months, and yet it won a bid.] " she said.

Prior to this, the government had a contract with Japanese maintenance provider Sumitomo, which was renewed several times until its termination in October 2012.