The Duterte administration was advised to demand a P3.8-billion refund from the Chinese supplier if the 48 Dalian trains it delivered are found to be unfit for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3).
Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian lamented that the 48 light rail vehicles (LRVs) supplied by CRRC Dalian Co. two years ago remain unused, even as MRT commuters are forced to bear with the daily hassle of commuting in overloaded Metro trains that suffer frequent breakdowns.
In a statement on Thursday, Gatchalian prodded the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to “take immediate action” after deciding “whether the controversial Dalian trains are suitable for use on the Metro Rail Transit 3 rail line.”
He voiced MRT daily commuters’ dismay, pointing out that “two years have passed since the Dalian trains arrived, and yet their fate remains in limbo.”
The senator suggested that the Duterte administration’s transport officials and the MRT 3 management must act fast “so that we can bring the suffering of MRT 3 commuters to an end.”
Gatchalian added that should the 48 LRVs delivered by CRRC Dalian Co. be “assessed as unworthy for use on the MRT 3 line…the DOTr should return the units and demand for a total refund.”
He asserted the MRT problem boils down to “a question of suitability.”
“If it is found that these trains aren’t right for the system,” Gatchalian suggested that the Duterte administration “needs to get our money back,” adding that “we cannot rely on trains that don’t match the specifications agreed on by the parties in the first place.”
The senator recalled that in January 2018, the DOTr and the MRT 3 management tapped the German firm TUV Rheinland to be the Independent Audit and Assessment (IAA) Consultant tasked to “evaluate and submit recommendations” on issues concerning the unused LRVs. He added that the report on their assessments are expected to be released on March 10.
According to Gatchalian, the DOTr had earlier reported that the Dalian trains weigh 49.7 metric tons (MT), exceeding the maximum allowable weight of 46.4 MT found in the contract, finding them unsafe to use on existing MRT 3 rails. The transportation agency also cited “issues in the compatibility” of the LRVs with MRT 3’s maintenance facilities and signaling system.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque Jr. said he will be disclosing the facts on the anomalies haunting MRT 3 soon, following his revelation in a radio interview that the “Pangasinan group” earned kickbacks from the contracts entered into by officials of the then-Department of Transportation and Communication under the Aquino administration.
Asked if he could already name the members of this Pangasinan group, Roque answered: “not yet,” noting that there is still an ongoing investigation.
“It’s now in the process of investigation, and this is what I promised to do. I have some documentary evidence already. Perhaps beginning next week, I will devote one day a week in disclosing facts and details about the plunder of MRT 3,” Roque said in Thursday’s Palace briefing, noting that he is just giving notice to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Department of Justice before he goes public with the documents, which he started to get on Thursday.
The two whistle-blowers who were formerly directly involved in the MRT 3 operations came to him.
He noted in that radio interview that the whistle-blowers bared the division of shares: one-third of the total payment from contracts allegedly went to the Pangasinan group and another one-third to the political machinery, while only a third went to the maintenance of MRT 3.
Roque also denied that former MRT General Manager Al S. Vitangcol III was one of the whistle-blowers he was referring to.
But he said with the independent information being furnished to him right now, he should go out of his way and refer Vitangcol also to the NBI.