Chiz calls for senate inquiry about the MRT3 project
By Jason de Asis

SENATE OFFICE, Manila, November 30, 2010-Senator Chiz Escudero calls for senate inquiry about the Metro Rail Transit Corporation owned by John Robert Sobrepeña prompting him to clarify issues and concern about the MRT 3 project which started in 1997.

“Who really controls the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) project between the government and the Sobrepeña Group?” That’s the question of the Senator when the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) failed to confirm in the budget hearing at the senate last week regarding the exact status of operational control of the MRT 3.
Metro Rail Transit Corporation entered into a build-lease-transfer contract with DOTC to build the MRT 3 project in 1997 with a put up equity of One Hundred Ninety Million Dollars ($190m) where the government has since been paying for the project.
Through the years, the group retained control of the operations and development of the MRT 3. Chiz allegedly said that the contract has been anomalous and grossly disadvantageous to the government since it was started. One, there was a sovereign guarantee in the contract, but the MRT3 was an unsolicited proposal.

Under the BOT law, unsolicited proposals must not have any government guarantees, adding that the MRTC assigned the development rights payment (DPR) to another company called the MRT DevCo which is not allowed under the BOT law, while the DPR pertains to the acquisition of commercial rights and development of the 16-hectare depot site including all concessions to develop air and ground spaces.
“What is more questionable in this arrangement is that the signatories both for the assignor (MTRC) and the assignee are one and the same and he is John Robert Sobrepeña,” the Senator said.
DOTC lamented that MRTC has failed to settle its outstanding debt from DRP which has aggregated to more than a billion pesos where the company has been collecting and receiving income from DPRs.
DPRs are actually used to supplement the income of the railway system itself so that it can subsidize lower rates to the commuters in other rails in the world. This is the reason why the senator wanted to know who really controls the MRT 3 operation, and to seek help or to assist the DOTC as their step on how to deal with the issue to take in the next couple of months or years.
Early this year, the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) acquired a controlling interest in MRT 3 by accumulating equity in and debt paper of the MRTC to realize savings for the government.
He questioned the move of MRTC to peddle its supposed remaining assets to interested parties like the Metro Pacific Investment Corporation, saying that this is a BLT arrangement and under such arrangement, there are no assets to talk about that they can sell.

The Senator said that they can only speak of economic interest in the BLT because at the end of the term it will be owned by the government. “If there is anything that the Sobrepeña group can sell it is only the economic interest which they already did to LBP and DBP,” he furthered.
“With a combined 72% equity from the two state banks,” Chiz said, adding that the government should now have control of the corporation and therefore, revenue flows should be pointing towards the government coffers.
The DOTC has refuted the claim of the Sobrepeña group, saying only Phase 1 of the project has been assigned to Sobrepeñas. Prior to this, the Sobrepeña group claimed the DPRs to the MRT 3 Phase 2 project that will connect the Monumento-North Edsa line. (Jason de Asis)