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Poe calls for probe on 'anomalous' MRT deals under ex-DOTC chief Abaya

Senator Grace Poe on Wednesday filed a resolution calling for an investigation on the maintenance and expansion project contracts for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) entered into by the government during the stint of former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

Senate Resolution No. 355 directs the public services committee chaired by Poe to conduct the inquiry on the “inefficient management and maintenance of the MRT” and the unusable coaches purchased from Dalian.

Poe noted that the maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) as well as the procurement of Dalian coaches, worth P3.8 billion each, were done under Abaya, the secretary of the defunct Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) during the Aquino administration.

“Both contracts by the previous DOTC need to be re-examined as these involve billions of pesos and directly affect and could possibly endanger the safety and convenience of thousands of commuters,” Poe said.

“Inept and corrupt government officials should not go unpunished for entering into anomalous and patently disadvantageous contracts in the public transportation sector,” she added.

Two years ago, Poe questioned the decision of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to spare Abaya from the filing of graft charges over the alleged irregularities in the MRT’s interim maintenance contract.

A 2016 Commission on Audit report cited by Poe in her resolution said that from January to December 2016, there were 2,619 train removals, 63 service interruptions or shutdowns due to problems with the coaches, tracks, power supply, and signaling, and 586 incidents of passenger unloading, at times, thrice a day.

Poe also cited a newspaper column, which claimed that BURI “was contracted under unusual circumstances, such that there was no public bidding for the three-year contract, and that closed-door meetings were held prior to the signing of the contract.”

The article, she said, stated that invitations to reputable train operations were “just for show” as the deal was already reserved for four Filipino companies that would later form BURI.

These four companies are Edison Construction, Tramat Mercantile, TMI Corp. and Castan Corp., all of which allegedly have “no experience in handling rail maintenance.”

It was also earlier reported that the light rail vehicles (LRVs) purchased from China’s Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. cannot service MRT-3 passengers for the next three years because it has no signaling system.

Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez had explained that the LRVs cannot be used due to the contract of the previous administration specifying that at least 60 old trains should function during peak hours. —ALG, GMA News