An inherited problem– that’s how former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III remembers the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) situation during his term.
Speaking to media at the 85th birth anniversary of his father, the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., the former president said a total overhaul of the beleaguered train line was supposed to be implemented by the Arroyo administration, but did not occur.
Aquino said when his administration took over in June 2010, then-MRT maintenance provider Sumitomo had helped keep it running despite the line’s old coaches.
He said the situation led Sumitomo, the MRT-3’s maintenance provider for more than a decade, to raise costs and not provide a warranty.
“Ang dinatnan naming problema… Dumating yung punto na sinabi na ng Sumitomo ‘sobra ang paggamit niyo ng MRT,” Aquino said.
[Translation: The problem we inherited… It came to a point that Sumitomo said ‘MRT use is too much.’]
“Kung itutuloy namin yung maintenance nito itataas namin yung presyo dahil sobra sobra yung paggamit niyo. Hindi na rin namin kayo bibigyan ng warranty,'” Sumitomo said, according to Aquino.
[Translation: If we continue this maintenance, we’ll have to raise prices as it’s too worn out. We won’t be able to give you a warranty.]
Sumitomo was the MRT’s maintenance provider from 2000-2012. After its contract ended, the government hired several maintenance providers for the MRT train.
In December 2015, the government awarded the ₱3.8-billion maintenance contract to Busan Joint Venture, which had the experience and the required capitalization to accomplish maintenance of the MRT.
However, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) claims it was Busan Universal Rail, Inc (BURI) that was tasked to implement the maintenance contract, allegedly on orders of Abaya and other transport officials.
DOTr said the contract was anomalous as Busan Joint Venture is an entirely different entity from BURI.
“Busan Joint Venture won the contract with then-DOTC and one of joint venturers there is Busan Transportation Corporation,” Transportation Undersecretary Rainier Yebra said. “Siya yung may experience, may required capitalization [That had the experience and the required capitalization]. Joint venture should’ve included Busan Transportation Corp.”
“Instead, they formed BURI, where Busan Transportation Corporation, the Korean giant, only got 4.7-percent equity and we believe that in itself is anomalous,” he added.
The government terminated its contract with BURI last November 6 over poor performance.
Last week, the Department of Transportation accused Aquino administration officials, led by former Transportation Secretaries Mar Roxas and Jun Abaya, of plunder in connection with the MRT contract.
In a complaint filed before the Ombudsman last week, the DOTr claimed there was a “grand conspiracy” among the MRT’s former maintenance provider, BURI and the former transport officials to amass ill-gotten wealth.
Officials have denied the claims. Roxas called the accusations “pathetic,” while Abaya said he is confident any inquiry will show projects entered into during the Aquino administration “were done with full, rigorous compliance with the law.”
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