Chavez quits as DOTr Undersecretary for Railways

MANILA — Cesar Chavez has resigned as Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for Railways effective Thursday to provide President Rodrigo Duterte a free hand in selecting a qualified person in charge of the rehabilitation of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) system.

In his resignation letter addressed to the President, Chavez  said he is stepping down from his position irrevocably out of a “simple sense of delicadeza”.

Chavez said he made the decision to resign after the decoupling incident of a train coach in the MRT Ayala Station last week.

“I’m taking responsibility for all the breakdowns and glitches in the MRT system,” the former transportation official said in a press conference held at the MRT depot in Quezon City.

“The MRT operations have improved since we assumed office were if not for the unfortunate incidents like decoupling of train coach and the severing of a right arm of a woman who figured in an accident,” he added.

Chavez is confident the President will select an official with a deep experience in the railways sector and can implement initiatives to improve the MRT system’s operations.

“I am honored and privileged to have been given the trust and confidence for the subject position and I hope that the problems plaguing the MRT 3 system be resolved properly and with dispatch. I shall continue to support your programs and visions for our country especially in the rail transport sector,” he said.

DOTr Sec. Arthur Tugade was surprised by Chavez’s resignation and said that contrary to insinuations, he “did not cause or ask” the undersecretary to resign.

“He has my full trust and confidence. We have been doing plans and strategies together, up and until yesterday. Even by texts as I was on sickbay. That is why I am surprised by the very sudden turn of events,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Tugade has created a new Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) for the Maintenance Transition Team (MTT) that is temporarily taking over the MRT operations after the maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) was terminated earlier this month. It will procure some critical rehabilitation services and spare parts including, but not limited to, signaling system to cover parts and services; general overhaul of 38 light rail vehicles (LRVs), airconditioned units for passenger riding comfort and total rail replacement.

The department also plans to acquire a technically and financially capable maintenance service provider within three to six months from the government takeover last November 6. The DOTr is looking into a maintenance service contract for 2-3 years from a highly reputable maintenance service provider with a proven track record.

DOTr likewise is aiming for a complete takeover of the whole system by the winning bidder pursuant to the “unsolicited proposal” by second half of next year.

The Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) has been granted the original proponent status proponent status for MRT’s rehabilitation, operations and maintenance. The firm’s proposal has been submitted to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and will undergo Swiss Challenge once it is approved.

The Swiss Challenge procurement mode provides an opportunity for companies to make competing offers while giving the original proponent to match them.