Why former MRT-3 boss opposes expansion plan

Posted at 02/13/14 11:21 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Former Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) chairman Robert Sobrepeña appeared in court on Thursday to push his case for blocking the government's Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3 expansion plan, saying the right to do so belongs to a company he still has a stake in.

Sobrepeña led the MRT-3 project in the late 1990s, although he and his partners have sold significant parts of their interests over the years, including a buyout option to Manny Pangilinan's Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, which is trying to expand its infrastructure business.

Sobrepeña and his lawyer said Sobrepeña and Pangilinan have made several expansion proposals over the years, but the government didn't act on them.

“As early as 2000, the shareholder and owners have been pointing out and proposing ‘yung capacity expansion precisely to address the situation now. We have always been willing to talk to the government, in fact, as Mr. Sobrepena said we have already submitted a proposal and recently a few years back through Metro Pacific, the shareholder and owners presented another proposal to supply the trains,” said MRT Holdings spokesperson David Narvasa.

The government last month awarded a contract for 48 new railcars to a Chinese company, but last week Sobrepeña got the court to suspend that.

Department of Transportation and Communications spokesperson Michael Arthur Sagcal on Thursday, meanwhile, reiterated the need for the new railcars.

“Kaninong karapatan ba ang mangingibabaw? Ang karapatan ng isang pribadong kompanya na nagsasabing sila lang ang may karapatan na magdagdag ng bagon sa MRT, na nakatanggap na ng P35 billion mula sa pamahalaan at hindi naman nagdagdag ng ni-isang bagon sa MRT? 350,000 lang ang design cap ng MRT, ngayon 560,000 na ang average na sumasakay. Hindi na tayo maaaring maghintay pa, kailangan na magdadgad ng bagon sa MRT," he said.

The court on Thursday gave Sobrepeña and the government until Monday to submit their final position papers so it can make a final decision on the government’s expansion plan.