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MRT 3 rehab pushed

Philippine Ratings Services Corp., a debt watcher, has upgraded the rating of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3’s debt.

The private shareholders of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 want President Duterte to step in and support their bid to rehabilitate the congested railway line along Edsa.

Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) said yesterday that it had directly written Mr. Duterte, prompted by the “inaction” of the Department of Transportation on an earlier $150-million offer to rehabilitate MRT-3, which is prone to breakdowns.

MRTC is led by a group of investors led by businessman Robert Sobrepeña. It also has government shareholders, which control a minority voting position.

The main objective of MRTC’s offer is to “fast-track” MRT-3’s rehabilitation and bring back long-time maintenance provider Sumitomo Corp. of Japan.

It was during the Aquino administration that Sumitomo was replaced by various other groups, including the current maintenance provider, Busan Universal Rail Inc., which MRTC said was partly to blame for MRT-3’s current condition.

“The solution submitted by MRTC is for the full rehabilitation and maintenance of the trains in order to restore the system to accommodate over 550,000 passengers per day and allow effective capacity expansion,” MRTC president Frederick Parayno said.

It said the letter to Mr. Duterte was prompted by the lack of action or response from the DOTr on its proposal submitted in April.

“Aside from acknowledging receipt of the letter proposal, DOTr has not given MRTC any reply,” Parayno said.

A DOTr official did not immediately comment on the issue. In a letter to the MRTC dated May 5, 2017, DOTr assistant secretary for legal affairs Leah Quiambao said the offer was under study.

She added that the DOTr’s review “shall be without prejudice to our position that the proposal shall not stall, delay or otherwise postpone” ongoing arbitration proceedings between MRTC and the government.

MRTC and the government are embroiled in various legal cases involving the late payment of equity rentals and the acquisition by the previous Department of Transportation and Communications of new trains from China’s Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co.

Dalian had completed the delivery of 48 train coaches. However, the DOTr said in March that most of these could not be deployed, citing power supply issues and the need to install a new signalling system required for the trains to operate safely.

In its letter to Mr. Duterte, MRTC said accepting its proposal would also aid accountability given the restoration of a “single point of responsibility” regime.

“The Single Point of Responsibility is an element of MRTC’s contract with Sumitomo that holds the maintenance provider liable for any and all breakdowns and glitches in the MRT-3 system, leaving no room for excuses or finger pointing,” MRTC said.

Part of the offer included the acquisition of spare parts worth $50 million. It added that the offer comes at no cost to the government and can be implemented rapidly since it was allowed under its build lease transfer agreement with the government.

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