MANILA — Amid the general outcry of commuters in Metro Manila on the defective Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system and the recent fare increases in the MRT and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, several lawmakers advised the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) on Wednesday to immediately address several operations and maintenance issues on the country’s transit system.
Metro Manila Development Committee Chair and Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo and Transportation Committee Chair and Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento conducted a dialogue on the Metro Manila Transportation Plan with Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya as the primary resource person.
During the briefing, ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Samuel Pagdilao urged Abaya to be decisive in dealing with the rehabilitation, upgrade, and maintenance of the MRT-3.
Pagdilao also suggested to consider the matter as an emergency situation to address the issue right away.
However, Abaya said such matter involved intricate process and compliance with the government policies is necessary.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, meanwhile, asked the DOTC to present its plans on the short- and long-term solutions with regards to the concerns on the poor performance of the MRT-3 system maintenance provider.
Abaya said they continue to look for a company to replace the present maintenance provider.
He explained that the DOTC already conducted two procurement processes for a new maintenance provider but without success.
The first bidding, said Abaya, failed because the five initially interested entities did not submit their procured bidding documents after disagreeing with the rule on penalizing the maintenance provider for unsatisfactory service, reasoning out that it would be difficult to follow the particular policy in maintaining a 15-year-old transit system.
Abaya added that no one acquired a bidding document on the second procurement process.
With this, Abaya said they are now considering the negotiated form and emergency procurement as their alternatives in choosing a maintenance provider.
Meanwhile, representatives from the Metro Rail Transit Holdings, Metro Pacific Investment Corporation, and the Commbuilders and Technology Philippines Corporation, who were present in the briefing, expressed their interest and proposed their plan to handle the operations and management of the MRT system.
Sarmiento asked the DOTC to speed up their evaluation on several proposals from different companies who expressed their interest on the MRT system maintenance provider’s post.
Furthermore, Erice asked the DOTC to provide the cost and the quality analyses in the facilities of the MRT-3 to address the inquiry on proper appropriations of the budget allotted to the department from the 2015 General Appropriations Act and the 2014 supplemental budget.
OFW Party-list Rep. Johnny Revilla, on the other hand, questioned the decision of the DOTC on the unpaid bills they owe the Global APT Co., their existing maintenance provider for several months.
Abaya said the course of payment involves a two-way process in which they need to receive the assessment of fees from the Global APT that they earlier asked for a re-bill to include reductions on the fee as penalty for the violation of contract before they are paid.
Meanwhile, ANGKLA Party-list Rep. Jesulito Manalo encouraged Abaya to strengthen the technical capability of DOTC to appropriately handle such failures in the system.
“I think your leadership should now make it very apparent to the public that we’re making concrete steps by getting the right men, and let’s not leave this [concern] to the next administration to be inherited. If we came to this problem six years ago and it was not solved, let’s end it with the right people. I think the secretaryshould be given a free hand to recruit people to help the DOTC. There must be something definite and concrete that we’re willing to bring our heads out and that Congress will support,” said Manalo.
He suggested that the DOTC budget for next year should include all positions of technical people, especially engineers, to prevent business people from capitalizing at the expense of the government’s inability to solve technical problems in the transport system.
“This is above politics because the commuters are suffering, and I always say to the transport committee that the quality of this country depends on the public transport system. The transport systems: MRT and LRT, are not for the poor. These should be for everyone because if these become convenient for everyone, we will leave our cars and ride those things. That might actually alleviate the traffic,” added Manalo.