Lawmakers call for review of MRT contract

by RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2014 12:08 PM | Updated as of Feb 06 2014 08:08 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers urged the government to rescind its concession agreement for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), saying it is disadvantageous to the government.

At the House Committee on Transportation meeting, Department of Transportation and Communications legal counsel Jaime Caringal said the temporary restraining order issued by a Makati court against the MRT's capacity expansion program will result in delays.

Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), which owns the MRT-3 facilities, and Metro Rail Transit Holdings II, Inc. (MRTH-II), are the petitioners for the Temporary Order of Protection.

“At present, it will be delayed. The position of the department is we will respect the TRO," he said.

Lawmakers also urged the government to rescind the contract it has with the private MRT concessionaire for allegedly being disadvantageous. The panel created a technical committee to review all railway contracts which should be submitted.

Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop said, “Sa tingin niyo po ba walang mali sa kontrata?”

"The agreement entered into by government and MRTC, which is private corporation, was in 1999. All of us were not with DOTC. Out of respect, we cannot change the contract," MRT general manager Al Vitangcol said.

Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano said, "Is that what you’re saying now? The contract is disadvantageous to governmen? Ano na ba itong contract na ito? Bakit disadvantageous to government?"

Vitangcol answered, "The subsidy given to MRT-3 is actually more than what’s required for operational expenses. The amount we collect from passengers is enough to cover operational expenses and maintenance that would include moderate maintenance . However the equity rental payment, majority of the subsidy goes to the payment. What I'm trying to say is without equity rental payment, railways can be self sustaining."

ABAKADA Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz asked Vitangcol why they shouldn't rescind the contract.

"That’s a decision of my superiors," Vitangcol replied.

Albano reminded government officials it can take over contracts if it is proven to be disadvantageous to the government.

The MRT was built via a Build-Lease-Transfer agreement where the Sobprepena group built the railway and is leasing it to the government

Caringal, however, explained that the government does not want to renege on obligations.

The MRT capacity expansion program would have addressed the congestion problem. At present, the MRT services 540,000 passengers a day, way above the 350,000 passengers a day capacity. The capacity expansion would have added 48 additional train coaches to the current 73 coaches.

The mrt suffers from 5 major issues—overcapacity, waiting and queueing time, breakdown of facilities because of age, petty crimes and handling of passenger complaints.

Lawmakers echoed commuters' concerns about the problems of the MRT, such as overcapacity, long waiting and queuing time, petty crimes and breakdown of facilities due to age.

Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong said, “Congress is ready to help you (solve the problem of overcrowding). Kitang-kita masikip yung mga tren... Additional cars lang bakit di dagdagan yun anuman reasonable request. Congress would easily help you."