MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) on Thursday defended the need to purchase 48 new Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) to the Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3) system before the Makati Regional Trial Court Thursday afternoon.
A 20-day temporary order of protection has been issued by the court based on a petition filed by Metro Rail Transit Holdings II, Inc., which prevented the DOTC from pursuing the MRT-3 expansion project.
But DOTC said MRT Holdings II should be held accountable for Metro Rail Transit Corporation’s (MRTC) failure to add much-needed train coaches to the rail line, after it claimed to own 100% of MRTC.
DOTC spokesperson Michael Arthur Sagcal said “passenger safety and convenience demand that the project proceed immediately.”
“MRTC has received over P35.2 billion in equity rental payments since 2000. Yet it has added zero LRVs, knowing full well that MRT-3 has been operating beyond capacity for years. MRT Holdings II must answer the obvious question: why hasn’t it added LRVs to MRT-3 all this time?” he added.
The MRT-3 line has a daily capacity of 350,000 passengers, but current data showed that it is already averaging 560,000 passengers daily.
Its highest recorded number of single-day riders has reached 620,000.
“Those are the numbers: P35.2 billion paid to MRTC; more than 560,000 passengers daily; zero trains added to the system. Despite all of this, MRT Holdings II is asking the court to stop the DOTC from improving MRT-3’s services,” Sagcal said.
An Equity Value Buy-Out of MRTC is being prepared by the Department of Finance pursuant to Executive Order No. 126 to end government’s obligation to continue making equity rental payments to MRTC until 2025 while the latter effectively blocks efforts to improve MRT-3 services.
The former chairman of MRTC Robert Sobrepeña, meanwhile, is blaming the DOTC for the lack of new coaches, saying the company offered to provide brand new trains in 2000 and 2004, but the DOTC insisted on buying second-hand trains.
"As far as I am concerned, I was not in favor of second-hand trains. If we are to put more trains on EDSA, we should put brand new trains," he said.
Sobrepeña said MRTC still has the right to supply the trains under an existing build-lease-transfer agreement even if they did not reply to the letters of the DOTC seeking second-hand trains.
He added that DOTC’s decision to purchase the 48 new coaches from CNR Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. constituted "non-observance of MRTC's right of first refusal."
MRT Holdings spokesman David Narvasa urged the DOTC to address the issue of congestion instead of violating the BLT agreement.
"DOTC should address the main issue of its role as lessee under the BLT agreement instead of pushing for the award and delivery of light rail vehicles outside the terms and conditions of the BLT agreement. Their record shows that DOTC is creating more traffic and passenger congestion, rather than solving them," he said.
In a text message, Narvasa said the court has directed both parties to submit their respective position papers by Monday, February 17.
"The prayer for the issuance of a preliminary injunction was concluded with each party presenting 4 witnesses. The Court directed both parties to submit their respective memoranda/position papers to aid the Court by Monday, Feb. 17. With or without the memoranda/petition papers, the court said it would proceed to make a ruling," he said.
An arbitration case has also been filed by the MRTC against the DOTC before the International Chamber of Commerce-Court of Arbitration for violating the agreement, which remains valid until 2025.