What is this Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3) circus all about?
In March last year, President Aquino signed Executive Order No 126 stating that Secretary Joseph Abaya, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Department of Finance (DOF) should purchase MRT 3 pursuant to a build-lease-transfer (BLT) agreement. But this move encountered some thorny legal issues. For the said plan disregarded the government’s 15-year-old contract with MRT Corp (MRTC), which, by rights, should be running the EDSA rail system.
The original 1999 BLT between DOTC and MRTC gives the private operator the exclusive right to purchase additional coaches, so much so that MRTC made four proposals in the past administration to acquire additional trains—at no cost to taxpayers—starting from 2000, when MRT3 was just completed, up to 2005, when this train system already reached its maximum design capacity.
After President Aquino took over in 2010, the MRTC made an offer in November that year—when now-DILG Roxas was still DOTC secretary—to purchase new trains, again at no cost to the government.
But rather than accept MRTC’s fifth cost-free proposal, the DOTC opted to ditch this plan and instead chose to award a contract to Dalian Locomotive to supply 48 new trains, without seeking prior MRTC consent, in gross violation of their BLT agreement.
Should the DOTC/LRTA pursue this plan to buy 48 trains from Dalian Locomotive, DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) administrator Honorito Chaneco, could face a jail term in so doing. Why? Because the government cannot use taxpayers’ money to buy trains for MRT3 pending the implementation of the government's proposal to buy out MRT 3.
But what is this to poor Juan dela Cruz, who happens to knows little about legal matters. Less the hidden agenda, the MRT 3 Buyout Plan seems to cater his taste. But all he cares about right now is for this government to address MRT 3 daily 'commuter woes'. Is that hard to do?