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Mission accomplice

/ 12:55 AM August 03, 2015

ONE big black eye in the Aquino (Part II) administration has been the appalling service in the Edsa light rail system called MRT-3.

No wonder, in his record breaking two-hour long Sona last week, our leader Benigno Simeon, aka BS, chose to enlighten his bosses on the real reason why they should always fear that Edsa MRT could croak anytime.

In a way, our leader was honest enough to admit that the Edsa MRT indeed failed the “bosses” because of its awful service.

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In contrast, only several months ago, Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya was still insisting that the MRT operations were “normal.”

Never mind that the riders had to fall in line for two long hours per ride, or four extensive hours a day going to and fro, because the Edsa MRT just did not have enough trains. The lines would normally go all the way from the elevated platform of the train stations, going through the steep stairs, and extending down to the streets. You know—that kind of normal!

While our dear leader, BS, could not ignore the Edsa MRT problem in his Sona, he nevertheless must blame others for the problem.

It seemed that the DOTC, the Department of Transportation and Communications, fed to our dear leader, BS, the information that the DOTC had no choice but to take over the maintenance of the Edsa MRT, if only to save the system.

Well, he said in the Sona that the private owner of the system failed to maintain the system properly, citing as an example that, in the general overhaul of the system done in 2008, the firm merely “painted” the trains to make them look new.

There, mission accomplished, the blame has been disowned by the administration.

In other words, because of the poor maintenance of the system before the Aquino (Part II) administration came into power in 2010, the Edsa MRT completely deteriorated into some useless pieces of junk.

Nothing could be farthest from the truth.

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For the sake of the speech writers of our dear leader, BS, any light rail transit system in the world, for that matter, must undergo complete overhaul every seven or eight years, on top of the normal daily maintenance SOPs.

In the case of the Edsa MRT, our dear leader, BS, had said that the “private” owner had to do the overhaul because it was required by the contract between the government and the company.

Thus, the company executed the overhaul from 2007 to 2009—and, yes, such a huge undertaking always took a lot of time.

The DOTC even hired consultants from the foreign group called Systra to provide the third-party technical expertise to evaluate the overhaul that was done in two years by Japanese heavy industry conglomerate Sumitomo.

From the very beginning of the Edsa MRT operations in the 1990s, by the way, Sumitomo was the maintenance contractor for the system.

In those days, the Edsa MRT has never been the headache that it became to the Aquino (Part II) administration.

The DOTC, in fact, accepted the light rail system from Sumitomo as fully overhauled.

In 2010, also under the Aquino (Part II) administration, the foreign consultants of the DOTC reviewed the maintenance practices of Sumitomo and concluded that the Japanese group had passed with flying colors.

The DOTC thus kept Sumitomo as maintenance contractor until 2012.

If the overhaul done by Sumitomo in 2009 was, as our dear leader, BS, claimed in his Sona, just a “paint job,” why did the DOTC keep Sumitomo as maintenance contractor for three more years?

There could only be either one of two reasons: one, Sumitomo must have been doing a pretty damn good job or, two, the DOTC was so incompetent to know the difference between good and bad contractor.

Unfortunately, the “private” owner of the system, the one called MRTC, fell under the complete control of the Aquino (Part II) administration, when our dear leader, BS, appointed his men to occupy 10 of the 14 board seats in the company.

All of a sudden in 2012, the government- controlled MRTC decided to terminate Sumitomo as maintenance contractor—just 12 days before the contract would expire.

At that time, from what I gathered, perhaps because Sumitomo knew that the DOTC was happy with its performance, Sumitomo asked the DOTC to apply the escalation clause in its contract. You know—more payment!

As Sumitomo argued at that time, the Japanese firm had to use all of 60 percent of the maintenance budget just for spare parts.

But the DOTC decided to give the multi-million-peso contract to an untested undercapitalized company called PH Trams, reportedly because of its deep connections with the Liberal Party, through the so-called Pangasinan mafia.

All hell broke loose.

What do you know—the same contract between the DOTC and PH Trams became the subject of the case that, just recently, the Ombudsman filed against DOTC officials.

In a way, the Ombudsman also smelled something fishy in the PH Trams maintenance contract.

The maintenance of the Edsa MRT line was already so deteriorated that only seven out of the existing 20 trains were running lately, with no readily available supply of the most basic spare parts, and with the rails in the depot being cannibalized to replace the damaged ones on the actual line.

Okay, the Ombudsman investigation was just about three years late.

The ever-delayed Ombudsman also did not include the DOTC boss, Abaya, in the case.

Abaya said he was only two days as DOTC chief when he signed the rotten maintenance contract.

And that makes him not liable—is that it?

Anyway, Sumitomo also turned over to the DOTC and its favored contractor PH Trams some $15 million worth of spare parts, which would only be enough to cover the requirements for only half a year.

In the next three years, the DOTC’s maintenance contractor did not purchase new spare parts, which was actually even revealed in the Senate hearings conducted by Sen. Grace Poe.

In another time and place, the head honcho of any outfit would have probably chopped off the head of the one responsible for such a horrible mismanagement of a multibillion-peso asset such as the Edsa MRT.

For whatever reason, such as to stop Abaya from talking about other controversial deals in the Edsa MRT, our dear leader, BS, perhaps wanted to keep Abaya near him, refusing to fire Abaya as DOTC head, despite the tons of controversies involving DOTC.

As indicated in the recent Sona, moreover, our dear leader, BS, even seemed to exonerate Abaya by mouthing the DOTC propaganda line of blaming the “private” owner for the miserable state of the Edsa MRT.

If Abaya lied all along about the whole darn thing, what would it make our dear leader, BS, as he embraced Abaya’s explanation as his own?

It would horrify the guys down here in my barangay to think that the stance of dear leader, BS, on the Edsa MRT controversy would make him an accomplice.

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TAGS: Business, economy, Joseph Abaya, MRT 3, News
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