SM contests award of AFCS project to Ayala-Metro Pacific consortium

By Lenie Lectura, BusinessMirror

Posted at Jan 27 2014 08:03 AM | Updated as of Jan 27 2014 08:01 PM

MANILA - The award of the Automatic Fare Collection System (AFCS) contract to AF Consortium of the Ayala and Metro Pacific groups faces yet another delay after the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) received a complaint-letter anew from one of the bidders.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said in a text message the SM Consortium wrote the DOTC last week. He, however, did not provide details of the issues raised by SM yet.

“I haven’t seen the letter. It was just reported to me. I was informed that SM sent a letter. We will respond to SM first,” he said.

SM Consortium submitted the second-best offer for the project. Its financial bid stood at P1,088,000,000, while the AF Consortium of the Ayala and Metro Pacific groups submitted a slightly better offer at P1,088,103,900. The Comworks and Berjaya Consortium, meanwhile, submitted a positive bid worth P2,050,090,300.

While the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the DOTC was evaluating AF Consortium’s proposal, losing bidder E-Trans Solutions Joint Venture Inc. (E-Trans) wrote the DOTC to reconsider its decision, which disqualified the firm from the auction.

In particular, e-Trans’s technical proposal did not describe the required Conditions for Use of the project, which would protect the card user’s data privacy. It was also found to be incomplete, unclear and did not show compliance with the project’s scheme-provider principles. Moreover, its business plan did not follow the projection computations contained in the draft concession agreement, said the DOTC.

E-Trans appealed the decision. “E-Trans feels that the DOTC’s consideration of only these two bidders withholds crucial information from taxpayers and the intended beneficiaries of the AFCS—the 1 million commuters who use the system every day,” said Conrad Tolentino, lawyer for the E-Trans consortium.

But Abaya said last week this was already resolved. “Clearly, it was Ayala-MPIC that had the more superior bid. It was a straight computation of net present value,” he added.

Aside from E-Trans, the DOTC also disqualified the Megawide-Suyen-Eurolink Consortium for its failure to meet the bid requirements. It did not object to the DOTC’s decision.

Back then, another reason the DOTC could not award yet the contract to AF Consortium is it has yet to secure approval from the Regional Development Council. Later the RDC gave its go-ahead.

But the SM Consortium’s complaint-letter came.

Abaya reiterated on Sunday that no awarding of the contract will take place unless all issues are resolved. “We won’t award with any pending motion for reconsideration, similar to how we dealt with E-Trans’s complaint. We will respond first to SM,” said the DOTC chief.

The AFCS project aims to introduce smart card-based technology initially for the three light-rail systems, and eventually to other modes of mass transportation.

Basically, the AFCS project is similar to the Octopus smart card used in Hong Kong’s public-transport systems and convenient stores.

The AFCS project is part of the DOTC’s thrust to modernize the country’s transportation systems for more convenient, reliable and efficient services.

It will upgrade the Light Rail Transit (LRT) and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) ticketing scheme to a tap-and-go system, which will substantially lessen queuing time and allow seamless transfers from one rail line to another.

The winning consortium will also have the option to expand this contactless card system to other businesses in and out of the transportation sector, such as in retail transactions.

In the future, the system can be expanded to include other transport modes such as buses, toll roads and the Philippine National Railways (PNR).

The project, which was approved by the President and the National Economic and Development Authority Board last November, entails the design, installation and construction of the new AFCS for LRT 1, LRT 2 and MRT 3; its maintenance for a concession period of 10 years beginning full systems acceptance; provision of contactless media or tickets; and the operation of the AFCS Central Clearing House.