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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Php 53.95 Billion MRT Buyout a Waste of Taxpayers Money

Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero. chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Sergio R. Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate Banks Committee, yesterday said the proposed P53.9-billion budget to buy out the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) is a waste of taxpayers’ money.
The two senators said this when Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad appeared before the Escudero committee to defend the DBM’s proposed P1.418-billion budget for 2015, which is P421 million higher than its current budget of P997.5 million.
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) planned to buyout MRTC in a bid to improve the poor services of MRT 3 that serves commuters from Quezon City to Pasay City.
Escudero said he really planned to delete the P53.9 billion in the “unprogrammed funds” of the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015 as requested by the DOTC.
He, however, pointed out that President Aquino has already authorized the DBM to source out the funds from loans to enable the DOTC to “activate” the unprogrammed funds – which means the government can now access the P53.9 billion without going to Congress anymore.
Escudero recalled that DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya had wanted to bid out to the private sector the “operations and maintenance” (O&M) of MRT3 after admitting earlier that the DOTC can do the O&M of the railway if government could not buy it.
“The long and short of it is that Abaya wants to bid out the O&M and if they can do it, why do we still have to pay? The result is he can do it, why do we pay?” Escudero asked.
But Osmeña foresees a “long fight” ahead on the proposed equity buyout of MRT3, which could be “triggered not by the government but by the MRTC.” 

“If they (MRTC) do not want to sell, you cannot force them to sell. The P40 billion to be paid to the DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines) and the Land Bank of the Philippines for buying the MRTC bonds – which was ‘an anomalous transaction in the first place’ – was overpriced, which can be used elsewhere,” he explained.
Osmeña said he will ask the Department of Finance (DOF) to cut the proposed P53 billion so we don’t make official the payment of kickback and be able to ramp up our expenditure on infrastructure.
Abad admitted that the senators’ opinions on the MRT3 are proving to be beyond his comprehension.
“The legal complications have been unraveling through time. When we initially discussed the inclusion of P53 billion in the unprogrammed funds the points raised by Secretary Abaya were not in fact on the table yet. This thing is developing as we go on,” he said.
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