HOR COMPLEX, Quezon City (DWDD) – Lawmakers from the House of Representatives unearthed more problems involving various government rail projects, including the Metro Rail Transit 3-Light Rail Transit 1-LRT7 common station. No less than House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez warned officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) that the government may end up being liable for penalties if the controversial terminal is not finished on time.
At the hearing held by the House committee on transportation on the MRT-LRT common station issue, the Speaker expressed concern that because of delay on the part of the DOTr to construct the common station at its original location, that is, in front of SM North Edsa, not only would the dream project fail to materialize during the Duterte administration but would also make the government liable to pay penalties.
The DOTr was earlier criticized for favoring companies that had entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) last January 18, wherein the parties agreed to relocate the common station between SM North EDSA and Trinoma malls in the vicinity of EDSA and North Avenue.
“Ibig sabihin, meron kayong obligation na tapusin ‘yung terminal or the government will be liable to pay for damages after the deadline on 2019, right? ‘Pag hindi naitayo ‘yang common terminal na ‘yan, magbabayad ang gobyerno ng penalty,” Alvarez said.
Construction of the common station is expected to start in December this year and must be completed by April 2019, per the MOA signed by the DOTr, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), LRTA, SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI), Light Rail Manila Corp., San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and North Triangle Depot Commercial Corp. (NTDCC).
“Naisip ba ni Secretary Tugade ‘yan na kumuha kayo ng lubid at ipasok ninyo ‘yung leeg ninyo sa lubid? Ganun katagal, eh. Baka tapos na ‘yung term ni Presidente Duterte, ‘di pa rin matapos yung completion sa common terminal that is the subject of the MOA,” said the Speaker. Alvarez reacted to the information provided by DOTr Undersecretary Cesar Chavez that the pre-construction phase of the common station alone will already take one-and-a-half years.
Alvarez asked the DOTr officials if they would be willing to shell out their personal money to pay for possible penalties, saying the government would not pay because it is not responsible for the delay in the construction of the terminal.
“Ang may kasalanan niyan ay kayo. Kasi ayaw ninyong itayo ang terminal na pinondohan na ng gobyerno, dahil nga mas gusto ninyo ‘yung isang ambitious terminal na wala pang pondo, wala pang approvals. Kapag dumating ‘yung oras na ‘yung gobyerno na naman ang mape-penalize, hindi pupuwedeng bayaran ng gobyerno ‘yan. It should come from your own money,” the Speaker emphasized.
“Yung isa, ipapaaprubahan ninyo pa lang. Yung isa, (it) has gone through the process. Ang kulang na lang, i-bidding ninyo. Nandyan na ‘yan, eh. May pera, meron nang engineering design. Kulang na lang i-advertise, ipa-bidding at mag-construct, at aabot sa itinakda na meron tayong dapat na common terminal. Hindi ko maintindihan sa inyo. Common sense. ‘Yan ang parating sinasabi ni Presidente. Ayaw ninyo talagang gawin. Hindi ko talaga maintindihan ‘yan,” lamented Alvarez.
He then requested the DOTr to let Tugade attend the next meeting.
Committee chairman Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes) also detailed other provisions of the MOA, which the committee found onerous to the government. He asked the DOTr and the LRTA to revisit the said provisions and try to rectify the same.
“You had the time to look over some provisions of the contract, which House members believe contain provisions which are disadvantageous to the government, such as the responsibility of the government to be in charge of vehicular traffic. But a provision in the MOA says that consent must be secured first by the government from the mall operators. What’s important is the general welfare and convenience of the riding public and not the interest of the two malls,” Sarmiento said, referring to SM and Trinoma malls where the common station will be constructed.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jericho Jonas B. Nograles (Party-list, PBA) raised another issue that was the subject of a resolution he had earlier filed. Nograles questioned the possible breach of contract by MRT-3’s maintenance provider, the Busan Universal Rail, Inc. (BURI), and the hazards it poses to the riding public.
At first, the representative of BURI denied that the company was outsourcing the maintenance works and the grinding and re-profiling of the old MRT-3 coaches’ wheels, claiming that they were being done at their depot by their maintenance people.
But when Nograles presented a copy of a receipt from a machine shop based in Bulacan, the BURI official was forced to admit that it did outsource the wheel maintenance. According to DOTr’s independent consultant, Seoul Metro joint venture, outsourcing the work was risky and unsafe, as it could result to the downgrading of the speed of the coaches from 60kph down to only 40kph due to safety issues.
“Yes, it is obsolete, but it still needs a lathing machine to make sure that all the wheels are grounded, rounded and profiled in a uniform manner, and not in a “mano-mano” manner in Bulacan or in your depot, without the appropriate machine. Because if the wheels are not synchronized, balanced, or of the same shape, you are bringing danger to the riding public,” emphasized Nograles.
Sarmiento and the other committee members required the government agencies to submit to the committee all related contracts the agencies had entered into for review of other provisions that could be deemed disadvantageous to the government. According to the committee, such finding could warrant not only the rescission of the contract/s, but also the filing of cases against erring contractors.
The lawmakers also proposed that the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center should be given the mandate to review all government construction contracts prior to signing.
The committee also advised all concerned rail sector agencies to beef up inter-agency coordination, noting the report of Philippine National Railways (PNR) Chairman Retired Police General Roberto Lastimoso that the PNR has been kept out of the loop about rail projects.
Rep. Rodel M. Batocabe (Party-list, Ako Bicol) noted that the PNR is the biggest landowner among all government agencies. He also directed PNR officials to submit to the committee the list of its real property assets and the portions which have already been awarded to beneficiaries under Executive Order No. 48 of 2001 (socialized housing along railways) issued during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Despite the grilling by committee members, the PNR representatives made of record the projects and programs they have completed, were completing or were planning to undertake. The projects include the LRT2 Masinag extension, the LRT1 Cavite extension, as well as the north and south railways projects that it is currently negotiating with Japan and China.
“Change is the electoral platform that catapulted this administration to power. Do you really want change to happen? Do you have the wisdom, political will and perseverance to address the issues under your jurisdiction? How passionate are you to let the public experience the change your agency can bring?” asked Sarmiento as he rallied the partner agencies in the rail sector to work closely together to resolve the transport traffic crisis. CONGRESS / MCAG