Former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya maintained that the deal for the upkeep of the Metro Rail Transit-3 and all contracts during his term were “above board” and that his conscience “was clear” as these were done in “good faith”.
Abaya gave the assurance before a Senate inquiry into the maintenance deal between the then Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and PH-Trams that won the bid in a joint venture with CB&T.
But not before admitting that the contract was approved without knowing the company’s background.
Abaya’s admission came after Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the committee on public service, asked whether theformer DOTC chief knew that PH-Trams and CB&T were incorporated months before the award was given.
“Ginagarantiyahan ko sa inyo, walang nakinabang dito. Walang kalokohan ito.
Above board lahat. Malinaw ang konsesiya namin. Kaya kong sagutin ang aking Panginoon na ginawa namin nang maayos ito,” said Abaya during the televised proceedings on Monday, May 15.
(I guarantee you, no one profited. There are no anomalies. Everything is above board. Our conscience is clear. I can answer my God that we did everything in good faith.)
Poe asked Abaya whether he knew that PH-Trams had capitalization of only P625,000 but was awarded a contract stipulating that it would get P50 million a month and was incorporated two months after.
Abaya said that as the newly appointed secretary back then, he wanted to look into the details of the bidding process but was advised not to meddle in the process.
Poe further asked Abaya if the previous leadership of the DOTC was committed to awarding the bid to PH Trams to which Abaya denied any knowledge.
“Noong nagkaroon po ng desisyon. At that time, nag-o-orient ako sa DOTC. The last thing I would want is to know how these bidders are partnering themselves. I was orienting in air, in rail, in sea. That was my last concern,” he said.
Poe then asked Abaya if he approved the maintenance contract without knowing PH Trams’ background. The former transportation chief said yes but did so in good faith.
Asked if the transportation department leadership before him researched on PH Trams, Abaya said he wouldn’t know.
Abaya was appointed transportation chief after his predecessor, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, was transferred to the Department of the Interior and Local Governance (DILG).
“There was a presumption that the organization, the bureaucracy was doing its job,” Abaya told Poe. “If I came there as a ‘doubting Thomas’ being careful that I won’t sign anything, MRT-3 would have stopped on October 19.”
“No maintenance provider, Sumitomo (MRT’s maintenance provider from 2000 to 2010) would have packed its bags, that I could not explain to our people,” he added.
Abaya also maintained that all MRT-3 contracts during his term at the transport department were done in accordance with the law.
He said the 48 trains from China’s Dalian Locomotive Corp. were procured with the expectation that these would be fully compatible with the existing MRT-3 system, including its signaling system.
Full operations of the new 48 light rail vehicles (LRV) from Dalian were stopped as the present Department of Transportation (DOTr) wanted to make sure the signaling system of these trains were compatible with the current system of the MRT-3.
MRT General Manager Deo Manalo said that the signaling system was working, and that they were only fixing some issues in the the feedback signal and response time. He said they expected to resolve all these issues this May.
“Malinaw na malinaw po na CRRC Dalian is fully responsible to ensure the signaling works. At the end of the…kung pumapalpak po ito, ang tanging sisisihin natin ay ang CRRC,” said Abaya, who also stressed the procurement process was strictly followed.
He added that the DOTC during his time relied heavily on consultants who were experts on rail, LRV designs and safety standards, in the procurement of the Dalian trains to ensure quality.
He denied reports that LRVs from Dalian did not have wheels, engines, signaling, depot and power.
“These trains can run. I personally rode the trains. I was there a couple of times. We didn’t get media. I just wanted to ensure to put my life on the line to make sure when people ride these trains, they will function safely,” he said.
The MRT said five trains from Dalian would be added in December to the trains running during peak hours as this was expected to increase MRT capacity to 600,000 passengers and end the long lines on its stations.
More trains from Dalian would be added after the upgrade of the MRT power and the completion of the North Turnback by April 2018.