Malacañang on Tuesday, March 6, laid down the administration’s plan of action to improve the services of the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3).
“There were… ways forward identified for MRT-3,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said during a Palace press briefing, where he announced highlights of the President’s meeting with his Cabinet members on Monday, March 5.
Secretary Roque said administration officials identified a three-tier solution to fix the train line’s operations, which have been plagued by frequent breakdowns and numerous glitches.
The Spokesperson said a short-term solution discussed during the Cabinet meeting was the procurement of all necessary spare parts for MRT-3, whereas the medium-term solution was to enter into a maintenance contract with the original contractor, Sumitomo Corporation.
“They have concluded already the survey of what needs to be done. And from what I understand, Sumitomo found out that it was worse than they expected,” Roque said, adding that the Japanese firm already came up with a fixed timetable to rehabilitate MRT-3.
Roque confirmed that there is now an existing government-to-government agreement between the Philippines and Japan, which enables the country to rehire Sumitomo’s services for the maintenance of the train line.
Meanwhile, the Palace official stressed that the government’s long-term solution would be to change the ownership of the MRT-3 Corporation, which he said “appears to have contributed to the problem.”
“As you know, the ownership of MRT-3 is a private corporation. So, they are thinking of changing the owners because we have had many problems with the current owners,” he said.
Roque also disclosed that the President is eyeing to file new plunder charges against officials of the previous administration over the MRT mess, particularly for awarding the maintenance contract to a company that has “absolutely no track record.”
The Spokesperson said that the company to which the contract was previously awarded failed to deliver on its obligation to repair MRT-3’s 26 coaches. “They only delivered two; and they even supplied the wrong signaling system,” he pointed out.
“There was a decision that cases will be pursued for those behind the miserable performance of MRT-3,” Roque said. The President instructed Solicitor General Jose Calida to study the matter, he further announced.
“But in any case, that’s just part of the solution. Accountability is part of the solution,” Roque added, as he assured the public that the current government has now taken steps to improve the train line’s operations.
Also discussed during the Cabinet meeting included the President’s directive that only Philippine nationals could conduct explorations in the Philippine Rise, the Philippine National Identification Card (ID), the country’s rice supply situation, and Boracay Island’s planned rehabilitation.
Palace welcomes news on PH being best country to invest in
During the same press briefing, Malacañang welcomed the recent U.S. News and World Report identifying and ranking the Philippines as the best country to invest in for 2018.
Citing the Department of Finance, Secretary Roque said the recent development can be attributed to the country’s “young and hardworking” workforce, an “excellent” inclusive growth momentum, an expanding middle class, fiscal discipline, stable monetary policy, an achievable infrastructure program, improved revenue collection, and a strong anti-corruption drive.
He also said the country’s membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), coupled with a politically stable environment under a strong and popular leadership, contributed to investors’ confidence.
“We assure our investors here and abroad, that the government will continue to implement sound economic policies to improve the country’s ease of doing business performance and further sustain the growth momentum of the Philippine economy,” Roque underscored.