The offer of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. to buy out the government’s interest in the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 will depend on the decision of not just one but two departments that will decide jointly on the fate of this key element of Metro Manila’s mass transport system.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said his department would soon come up with a decision detailing the government’s “financial position” on the infrastructure conglomerate’s revived proposal, while the Department of Transportation would make its own stand on the “operational” aspect.
“Essentially, we are discussing our common position with the DOTr,” he said. “This is a DOTr [issue]. It’s really under them. We are only involved because we own shares and they owe us money through the MRT bonds.”
The decisions of both departments will be a common one, Dominguez noted.
“We’ve had several meetings already with DOTr,” he said, adding the last meeting was held earlier this week. “We are moving toward coming to a common position.”
Dominguez, the head of the Duterte administration’s economic team, also pointed out that apart from the MPIC conglomerate run by businessman Manuel Pangilinan, the decision on MRT’s future would have to involve its other shareholders and creditors.
Plans for MPIC to acquire MRT were initiated in 2011 but were later sidelined as the Aquino administration rejected private sector proposals and decided to pursue—unsuccessfully—the buyout itself.
Pangilinan had said that their plan to rehabilitate and upgrade the aging MRT-3, which suffers from frequent breakdowns, would cost about P12.5 billion.
“This [does not] not only [involve] Manny Pangilinan,” Dominguez said, explaining that the telecommunications tycoon would also have to clear other roadblocks like the Sobrepeña group. “There are other parties involved here, so he’s got his own set of characters to deal with.”
At the same time, Dominguez did not close the door to the possibility of the government buying out MRT’s private stakeholders and running the commuter train system itself — an option he considered less likely to be chosen. – Daxim L. Lucas
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