Senate asks House to junk Php 53.9-B funds for MRT-3 buyout plan

By , on December 5, 2014

MRT3 Shaw Boulevard Station (Photo courtesy of UrbanRail)
MRT3 Shaw Boulevard Station (Photo courtesy of UrbanRail)

MANILA — The chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance on Thursday asked the House of Representatives to junk the Php 53.9-billion Metro Rail Transit 3 buyout plan in its proposed version of the 2015 national budget.

During the bicameral conference committee on the proposed national budget, Sen. Francis Escudero said that MRT 3 buyout is only a waste of money.

“We removed the provision for MRT buyout. The allocation for MRT buyout is Php 53.9 billion. Why spend Php 53.9 billion on something that won’t improve the plight of the riding public insofar as the MRT is concerned?” he said.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) planned to buyout MRTC in a bid to improve the services of MRT 3 that serves commuters from Quezon City to Pasay City.

House committee on Appropriations and Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab said that the House of Representatives provided Php 53.9 billion in its proposed Php 2.606-trillion 2015 national budget for the government buyout and takeover of the MRT 3.

Escudero said that he is also wary that the bulk of the takeover appropriation will just be used to pay for the bonds held by state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines, which hold up to 80 percent of MRTC, which is the owner of the mass railway.

“Even if we buy it out, it will not improve the service anyway, it will only go to the pocket of one agency to another namely Land Bank [of the Philippines] and DBP [Development Bank of the Philippines], Escudero told reporters in a joint press conference after the hearing.

According to the Senator, they are not convinced that they can see any improvement in the MRT service after spending P53.9 billion for the buyout plan.

“So instead, we reallocated the unprogrammed fund to cover approximately Php 10 billion to improve the MRT 3,” he said.

Escudero said that it is better to realign the fund to more essential services for the general public like the much needed infrastructure to ease traffic congestion and disaster preparedness programs.

He said that the issue on MRT 3-buyout will still be under discussion between members of the bicameral committee.

Earlier, Metro Rail Transit Holdings II Inc. (MRTH-II) Chairman Robert John Sobrepeña said the benefits from the planned takeover of the MRT 3 are minimal to nil, as it only provides for the exchange of money from one government agency to another.

He said the multibillion-peso budget is not enough to compensate for the whole train line, as the amount only accounts for the bonds owned by the DBP and the LBP.

“The Php54-billion equity value buyout would not in any way, benefit the maintenance and rehabilitation of the MRT 3 system, but will only be used to retire the bonds already owned by DBP and LBP,” he concluded.