MANILA - The Philippines and Japan are in "high-level discussions" to bring back Sumitomo Corp as maintenance provider for the MRT, as part of a 4-point plan to improve services in Metro Manila's busiest railway, the Department of Transportation said Wednesday.
A government to government contract for the 3-year maintenance and rehabilitation contract with Sumitomo and its technical partner, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, may be signed before the end of the year, the DOTr said in a statement.
The transportation department under the Aquino government terminated Sumitomo's maintenance contract in 2012 and replaced it with Busan Universal Rail Inc. The BURI deal was terminated under the Duterte administration due to service interruptions.
The DOTr said a proposal by tycoon Manuel Pangilinan's Metro Pacific to take over the operation and maintenance of the MRT was submitted for approval to the National Economic Development Authority.
Aside from bringing back Sumitomo and considering the Metro Pacific proposal, the DOTr said the 4-point plan included promoting accountability by terminating the BURI contract and the government taking over maintenance for 3 to 6 months until a private contractor comes in.
"With the bump in ridership expected as we approach the holidays, the public can be assured that the DOTr is pursuing all avenues to restore the MRT-3's reliability and to continue ensuring the safety of its 500,000 daily riders," the department said.
Transportation undersecretary for rail Cesar Chavez resigned last week, saying he was taking responsibility for the upkeep of the MRT.
The DOTr said it was coordinating with authorities to bring in more point to point buses to assist commuters who take the MRT.
An independent safety audit would also be done soon, it said.