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MRT-3 O&M deal auction targeted for first quarter

THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) said it is hoping to auction the operations and maintenance (O&M) contract for Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), and two other big-ticket railway projects by the first quarter of 2025.

“We are working on the terms of reference (for MRT-3). The bidding will be maybe next year,” Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing last week.

The DoTr is still determining the scope of the O&M contract that will be bid out.

“The railway system is very difficult to make profitable by itself. For the LRMC (Light Rail Manila Corp.) O&M, it was defined in terms of how much is their share,” Mr. Bautista said.

The DoTr is now working with the Asian Development Bank to develop a public–private partnership (PPP) MRT-3 project, Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John R. Batan said.

“From DoTr, we continue to develop our solicited PPP MRT-3 project. We are being assisted by the Asian Development Bank (like we did) for NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport),” Mr. Batan told reporters at the same briefing.

He said the DoTr may auction the contract by the first quarter of 2025.

The DoTr aims to privatize MRT-3 before the contract expires next year under the build, lease, and transfer agreement with MRT-3 operator Metro Rail Transit Corp.

The government has received two proposals for the MRT-3 project but the DoTr has expressed its intent to offer the project via the solicited route.

Mr. Batan said the Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC)-Sumitomo consortium recently submitted an unsolicited proposal for the MRT-3.

“There was a recent resubmission of the unsolicited proposal under the new PPP code. The Metro Pacific Sumitomo consortium (are) the proponents of the recent resubmission,” Mr. Batan said.

Under the new PPP code, submissions of unsolicited proposals are sent to the PPP center for an initial completeness evaluation.

However, the unsolicited proposal of the MPIC consortium was returned by the PPP Center for not being complete, Mr. Batan said.

In 2022, San Miguel Corp. was declared the original proponent for the MRT-3 O&M contract.

In January, MPIC Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Manuel V. Pangilinan said the company is working on a potential partnership with SMC and even considering submitting a joint proposal for the O&M of MRT-3. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Bautista said the DoTr may also conduct auctions for the O&M contracts of two major railway projects next year.

“That will be next year, simultaneously with the (planned bidding) of MRT-3,” he said when asked on the government’s timeline for auctioning the Metro Manila Subway Project and the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) contracts.

Last week, Philippine National Railways (PNR) said the northern part of the NSCR is now 60% complete, with the Clark to Valenzuela leg expected to be finished within the next two years. 

In March, the PNR suspended the operations of PNR’s Tutuban-Alabang commuter operations to fast-track NSCR construction.

The P873-billion project is being co-financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Asian Development Bank. It will have 35 stations and three depots.

Once fully operational the entire NSCR system is projected to reduce travel time between Clark and Calamba to two hours, against the current four to 4.5 hours.

MPIC is one of the three key Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT Inc.

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