MRT maintenance provider decries blame for glitches

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — Busan Universal Rails, Incorporated (BURI), the maintenance provider of the Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3), said on Tuesday they were being unjustly blamed for the train's glitches and malfunctions.

This follows a report issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) in June, saying incidents of passenger unloading due to technical problems have almost tripled, from 222 in 2014 to 586 in 2016.

"It is unfair to continually put the blame on us for every incidence of train stoppage, which is generally caused by the system's rail condition and increasingly evident design flaws," BURI spokesperson Charles Mercado said.

The COA report also said BURI had yet to finish the general overhauling of a single MRT car, despite a deadline to overhaul at least 13 cars by the end of 2016.

Mercado disputed the report, saying they had restored 16 cars in total in 2016.

He added the number of train glitches had decreased from 2,776 in 2015 under the former maintenance provider to 2,701, even as the number of of operational cars increased in 2016.

"If you compare 2015 with 2016 figures, we were able to reduce total number of glitches by I think 17 percent. And then, if you compare 2017 figures with the 2015 figures, half-year in, comparatively we have been reducing the glitches by around 20 percent," Mercado said.

In a statement, Mercado earlier asserted BURI has been treated unfairly and wrongly portrayed as a "favored" contractor of the former administration.

He added BURI has legitimately won the bidding because of their competence.

BURI took over as the MRT's maintenance provider in January 2016, as the six-month contract with German-Filipino Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik GmbH-Comm Builders & Technology Phils. Corp. Joint Venture (SBI-CB&T JV) had expired.

BURI 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 Department of Transportation (DOTr) is effective until January 2019.

Mercado also said BURI remained underpaid, as the government had yet to settle around P200 million pesos in billings.

However, he said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has slowly been paying their due service fee.

"We would like to express our gratitude to the DOTr, because we would like to believe that they are already recognizing our good performance that is why they have started to pay us," Mercado said.

Meanwhile, DOTr Undersecretary for Rails Cesar Chavez likewise said the burden should not be shouldered by BURI alone.

"The problem with MRT-3 cannot be blamed to the maintenance contractor alone. Neither can it be blamed to Busan or all other maintenance service providers before it," Chavez said in a statement.

Chavez also appealed to BURI to comply with all documentary requirements so they get paid promptly.

"There is no plan to terminate the Busan contract unilaterally. We observe due process. The Office of the Undersecretary for Legal is now in charge of reviewing the contract with Busan," Chavez said.