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NOY'S CORNER THIS PAST WEEK...
(MINI-READS followed by FULL REPORTS below)

COLOMA: INFRA PROJECTS TO EASE TRAFFIC COMPLETED AFTER NOY'S TERM


JANUARY 6 -Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. repeated the government’s appeal for understanding, noting that the administration is aware that the traffic situation needs to be improved as it is tied with the quality of life and would boost investments and spur economic development. Philstar.com/File
Malacañang yesterday admitted that some of the infrastructure projects the government has been trying to implement to resolve traffic congestion would be completed beyond the term of President Aquino. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. repeated the government’s appeal for understanding, noting that the administration is aware that the traffic situation needs to be improved as it is tied with the quality of life and would boost investments and spur economic development. Coloma said the projects expected to be completed in 2016 or 2017 include the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase II and the Light Rail Transit Line 2 East Extension (Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo). He said the infrastructure projects are “aggressively being undertaken” by the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications and other concerned government agencies in line with the Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure for Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas, otherwise known as the Mega Manila Dream Plan. The Mega Manila Dream Plan was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board headed by the President and his Cabinet. “This plan aims at improving overall mobility in Metro Manila and nearby regions, provide efficient public transportation systems and create new urban centers,” Coloma said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Who will maintain MRT? South Korea, Pinoy firms want out
[Meanwhile, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) urged the government to explain what happened a year after the DOTC implemented the fare hikes in the MRT and Light Rail Transit lines and there is still no improvement in train operations. The group said that in the absence of a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court (SC), the fare hike was implemented throughout the year. Bayan and various commuter groups have questioned the fare hike before the SC. The MRT and LRT lines have an estimated 1.3 million commuters daily and the DOTC collects P2.1 billion from the fare hike. “It has become clear that the fare increase had nothing to do with the improvement in the services of the train lines,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.]


JANUARY 6 -Sources said South Korea’s Busan Transport Corp. informed the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) that it wanted merely to serve as technical adviser in the three-year maintenance contract that was awarded without public bidding before Christmas Day. Philstar.com/File
Maintenance of the glitch-prone Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is uncertain after the South Korean firm opted out of a new deal and the Philippine-German contractor of the rolling stock and signaling systems also declined a one-month extension of its service.
Sources said South Korea’s Busan Transport Corp. informed the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) that it wanted merely to serve as technical adviser in the three-year maintenance contract that was awarded without public bidding before Christmas Day. The South Koreans are reportedly worried about lawsuits that the company may face in connection with the deal that was awarded through negotiated procurement after the DOTC claimed the existence of an “emergency.” Sources said the DOTC opposed the withdrawal of Busan, which has the technical expertise for the service. It has four Filipino partners. The previous six-month maintenance contract expired on Jan. 4 and was supposed to be replaced by the deal with Busan. Amid the South Koreans’ move, the DOTC reportedly offered the one-month extension to the previous group. But the principal maintenance contractor also declined, citing the government’s failure to pay the company in full. Roehl Bacar, representative of the German-Filipino joint venture maintenance contractor Schunk Bahn-und Industreitechnik-Comm Buolders and Technology Philippines (SBI-CBT JV), said the DOTC paid them only P28 million of the P131 million agreed upon for the six-month contract. Bachar said his company is still waiting for the balance of around P102 million. “We have this issue in the previous short-term contract. The DOTC management, the MRT management, there is a vacuum in the provisions that they cannot quantify the manpower supply,” Bacar said. He explained that the government asked them to provide spare parts for the trains should these malfunction, but the government has not paid them. Should they accept the month-long extension, Bacar said that the DOTC promised to pay the company more than P21 million. But Bacar said they have learned their lesson. He showed The STAR his firm’s letter of refusal to extend the contract yesterday afternoon. Aside from the revenue losses, Bacar said extension was meant merely to “stave off” disaster for the DOTC with its alleged gross neglect of standard operating procedures in ensuring a smooth transition. “Staying on to maintain the MRT for one more month will only cover up the lack of preparedness of their supposed successor as well as the negligence and incompetence of the DOTC, not to mention the shenanigans in the emergency procurement negotiations conducted by the DOTC for the P4.3-billion three-year MRT maintenance contract, which includes conducting the general overhaul of about 40 trains of the MRT, and the total replacement of the line’s signaling systems,” he said in a statement. The SBI-CBT JV had won the P131-million contract as the service and signaling provider of the MRT. Their contract was supposed to expire last Jan. 4 with the takeover by Busan Transportation Corp. and its Filipino partners Edison-Tramat Mercantile-TMICorp-Castan Corp. He said they were expecting the turnover of contract to the MRT’s new service provider beginning yesterday, but it turned out no one was ready. READ MORE...

ALSO: Bureau of Immigration chief sacked


JANUARY 8 -BI chief Mison replaced by Palace official Geron
Amid persistent allegations of corruption, President Aquino has fired Siegfred Mison as commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and replaced him with Palace official Ronaldo Geron Jr.
Aquino swore in Geron on Wednesday night, as a report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) found Mison and 17 others liable for the repeated escapes of a South Korean detained at the BI. Mison had denied reports that he would be fired, although he said he served at the pleasure of the President. Prior to taking over the BI, an agency under the Department of Justice (DOJ), Geron served as deputy executive secretary for finance and administration under the Office of the President since July 2010, when Aquino assumed office. Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters that according to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Geron “has been in public service for over 20 years.” A lawyer, the new BI commissioner also previously served as administrator and board member of the provincial government of Batangas, his home province. Geron graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1987 and was admitted to the Bar in 1988. Coloma said the performance of immigration officials is always “subject to the evaluation” of the DOJ chief, in this case Secretary Benjamin Caguioa, who exercises supervisory powers over attached agencies like the BI and the National Bureau of Investigation. It would be up to Aquino, however, to retain presidential appointees like the BI chief. Highly reliable sources say Caguioa will be appointed in March to the Supreme Court, following the retirement of Justice Martin Villarama who opted for early retirement for health reasons. READ MORE...

ALSO: DOTC chief to stay – Noy


JANUARY 8 -Despite the brickbats his administration has been getting for the poor transport service in Metro Manila, President Aquino is keeping Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya at the helm of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). STAR/File photo
Despite the brickbats his administration has been getting for the poor transport service in Metro Manila, President Aquino is keeping Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya at the helm of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters in a briefing yesterday that the former aide-de-camp of Aquino’s late mother Corazon still enjoys the Chief Executive’s trust and confidence. Abaya is also the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Party (LP). “All Cabinet secretaries serve at the pleasure of the President and their performance is continually being assessed by the President as Chief Executive,” he said. Abaya is being hounded by resignation calls for his failure to address transport sector woes, especially the frequent disruptions in MRT services. His department is also being accused of initiating anomalous contracts, particularly involving the repair and maintenance of the MRT system. “Pertaining to the day-to-day problems faced by commuters in Metro Manila, the President has tasked the DOTC and other concerned agencies to address these problems with effective solutions,” he said. “Additional transport infrastructure are also being built and planned to provide long-term solutions for the benefit of our citizens,” he added. Sen. Grace Poe – an independent presidential candidate – earlier asked President Aquino to sack Abaya, citing the controversial awarding of the P3.81-billion three-year MRT-3 maintenance contract to a Korean-Filipino group. Abaya, for his part, has shrugged off resignation calls. “As I have repeatedly said, it is a mere privilege for me to be serving our people,” Abaya said in a text message to reporters. Abaya was appointed to the DOTC post in 2012, replacing Manuel Roxas II who moved to the Department of the Interior and Local Government and who would later be LP’s standard-bearer in the May elections. READ MORE...RELATED, Poe slams Palace decision to keep Abaya...

ALSO Mamasapano probe: Noy not afraid to face truth - Palace


JANUARY 8 -Coloma said President Aquino himself addressed the nation several times to answer the questions involving the Mamasapano operation. STAR/File photo
As senators prepare to resume investigation into the Mamasapano tragedy, Malacañang said yesterday President Aquino and his officials are ready to face the truth, the pursuit of which they have never evaded. In a press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. reiterated that in the many investigations conducted related to the incident, administration officials had always cooperated. “It only shows that in all opportunities, the government faced and is facing the truth and that is the important thing about the incident in Mamasapano,” Coloma said. The Senate is set to reopen the Mamasapano investigation on Jan. 25, the first anniversary of the incident. Coloma said there had been exhaustive discussions on the issue during the various probes conducted by the Senate itself, the Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry, the House of Representatives, the Commission on Human Rights, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Department of Justice, which filed charges against those allegedly responsible for the brutal killing of 44 members of the Special Action Force. Coloma also said the reopening of the Mamasapano investigation at the Senate should not affect the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. The government aims to have the BBL passed to fully push forward the peace process in Mindanao. “It is also the legislators’ duty to uphold the process while performing other duties such as conducting investigations,” Coloma said. The BBL is one of the casualties of the Mamasapano incident due to the MILF’s involvement in the carnage. The SAF members were on a mission to capture or immobilize wanted terrorists. “The most important thing in all of these is to find out the truth and serve justice (to the SAF 44),” Coloma said. “In all opportunities, the government had been honest and truthful. All questions were faced and answered,” he said. Coloma said President Aquino himself addressed the nation several times to answer the questions involving the Mamasapano operation. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Infra projects to ease traffic completed after Noy’s term


Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. repeated the government’s appeal for understanding, noting that the administration is aware that the traffic situation needs to be improved as it is tied with the quality of life and would boost investments and spur economic development. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, JANUARY 11, 2016 (PHILSTAR) By Aurea Calica January 6, 2016 - Malacañang yesterday admitted that some of the infrastructure projects the government has been trying to implement to resolve traffic congestion would be completed beyond the term of President Aquino.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. repeated the government’s appeal for understanding, noting that the administration is aware that the traffic situation needs to be improved as it is tied with the quality of life and would boost investments and spur economic development.

Coloma said the projects expected to be completed in 2016 or 2017 include the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase II and the Light Rail Transit Line 2 East Extension (Santolan, Pasig to Masinag, Antipolo).

He said the infrastructure projects are “aggressively being undertaken” by the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications and other concerned government agencies in line with the Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure for Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas, otherwise known as the Mega Manila Dream Plan.

The Mega Manila Dream Plan was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board headed by the President and his Cabinet.

“This plan aims at improving overall mobility in Metro Manila and nearby regions, provide efficient public transportation systems and create new urban centers,” Coloma said.

READ MORE...

Coloma also said the government had warned the public that the projects would cause traffic congestion while they were being constructed.

Other road and transport projects approved by the NEDA board are now in various stages of implementation.

These projects include the P1.27-billion Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue/Makati Avenue-Paseo de Roxas vehicle underpass; the P4.01-billion Metro Manila Interchange Construction Project Phase IV that involves the construction of three grade-separated interchanges at EDSA-North Avenue-West Avenue-Mindanao Avenue interchange; the Circumferential Road 5 Greenmeadows-Calle Industria-Eastwood interchange; and the EDSA-Roosevelt Avenue-Congressional Avenue interchange.

Other projects are the Cavite-Laguna Expressway, Laguna Lakeshore Development, the North Luzon Expressway-South Luzon Expressway Connector Road, North-South Commuter Railway, LRT Line 4 project, LRT Line 6 project and the Bus Rapid Transit System from Quezon Memorial Circle to Manila City Hall.


PHILSTAR

Who will maintain MRT? South Korea, Pinoy firms want out By Robertzon Ramirez (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 6, 2016 - 12:00am 0 21 googleplus0 0


Sources said South Korea’s Busan Transport Corp. informed the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) that it wanted merely to serve as technical adviser in the three-year maintenance contract that was awarded without public bidding before Christmas Day. Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines – Maintenance of the glitch-prone Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is uncertain after the South Korean firm opted out of a new deal and the Philippine-German contractor of the rolling stock and signaling systems also declined a one-month extension of its service.

Sources said South Korea’s Busan Transport Corp. informed the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) that it wanted merely to serve as technical adviser in the three-year maintenance contract that was awarded without public bidding before Christmas Day.

The South Koreans are reportedly worried about lawsuits that the company may face in connection with the deal that was awarded through negotiated procurement after the DOTC claimed the existence of an “emergency.”

Sources said the DOTC opposed the withdrawal of Busan, which has the technical expertise for the service. It has four Filipino partners.

The previous six-month maintenance contract expired on Jan. 4 and was supposed to be replaced by the deal with Busan.

Amid the South Koreans’ move, the DOTC reportedly offered the one-month extension to the previous group. But the principal maintenance contractor also declined, citing the government’s failure to pay the company in full.

Roehl Bacar, representative of the German-Filipino joint venture maintenance contractor Schunk Bahn-und Industreitechnik-Comm Buolders and Technology Philippines (SBI-CBT JV), said the DOTC paid them only P28 million of the P131 million agreed upon for the six-month contract.

Bachar said his company is still waiting for the balance of around P102 million.

“We have this issue in the previous short-term contract. The DOTC management, the MRT management, there is a vacuum in the provisions that they cannot quantify the manpower supply,” Bacar said.

He explained that the government asked them to provide spare parts for the trains should these malfunction, but the government has not paid them.

Should they accept the month-long extension, Bacar said that the DOTC promised to pay the company more than P21 million. But Bacar said they have learned their lesson.

He showed The STAR his firm’s letter of refusal to extend the contract yesterday afternoon.


JANUARY 9, 2016 PHILSTAR HEADLINE NEWS: MRT, Busan ink 3-year deal; trains bog down anew -Metro Rail Transit  – The government has finalized a P3.81-billion three-year contract for the maintenance of Metro Rail Transit 3 with a Filipino-South Korean consortium. But even as officials were announcing the signing of the contract, MRT service was disrupted twice yesterday – in the morning rush hour and in the afternoon – stranding thousands of commuters on EDSA. The signing of the deal with the joint venture of Busan Transportation Corp., Edison Development & Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMICorp Inc., and Castan Corp. Thursday afternoon should end rumors that the consortium has walked out of the negotiations, officials said. In a press conference yesterday, Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the contract would cover the general overhaul of 43 coaches and the replacement of the signaling system within the next two years. Abaya also denied reports the South Korean firm had backed out and opted to merely serve as a technical adviser for the next three years. “It is not true that they walked out. Where did that come from? We were engaging them for the last three days and three nights,” he said. By Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 9, 2016 - 12:00am

Aside from the revenue losses, Bacar said extension was meant merely to “stave off” disaster for the DOTC with its alleged gross neglect of standard operating procedures in ensuring a smooth transition.

“Staying on to maintain the MRT for one more month will only cover up the lack of preparedness of their supposed successor as well as the negligence and incompetence of the DOTC, not to mention the shenanigans in the emergency procurement negotiations conducted by the DOTC for the P4.3-billion three-year MRT maintenance contract, which includes conducting the general overhaul of about 40 trains of the MRT, and the total replacement of the line’s signaling systems,” he said in a statement.

The SBI-CBT JV had won the P131-million contract as the service and signaling provider of the MRT.

Their contract was supposed to expire last Jan. 4 with the takeover by Busan Transportation Corp. and its Filipino partners Edison-Tramat Mercantile-TMICorp-Castan Corp.

He said they were expecting the turnover of contract to the MRT’s new service provider beginning yesterday, but it turned out no one was ready.

READ MORE...

The SBI-CBT JV has filed before the Office of the Ombudsman charges of neglect and misconduct against DOTC Undersecretary for operations Edwin Lopez, MRT 3 general manager Roman Buenafe and several other MRT 3 executives for the P102-million unpaid billings.

Bacar said that their German partner also “would like to press charges” against the DOTC and MRT officials.

“They are also seeking help from the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce to lobby the DOTC for payment to the joint venture for the technical expertise,” he added.

He said they would slowly pull out their services until the new contractor takes over. They are trying to avoid having the commuters think that they are “sabotaging the government,” he added.

Buenafe did not take calls from The STAR.

Meanwhile, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) urged the government to explain what happened a year after the DOTC implemented the fare hikes in the MRT and Light Rail Transit lines and there is still no improvement in train operations.

The group said that in the absence of a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court (SC), the fare hike was implemented throughout the year.

Bayan and various commuter groups have questioned the fare hike before the SC.

The MRT and LRT lines have an estimated 1.3 million commuters daily and the DOTC collects P2.1 billion from the fare hike.

“It has become clear that the fare increase had nothing to do with the improvement in the services of the train lines,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said. – With Rhodina Villanueva


PHILSTAR

BI chief sacked By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 8, 2016 - 12:00am 1 1 googleplus0 0


Mison and Geron

MANILA, Philippines - Amid persistent allegations of corruption, President Aquino has fired Siegfred Mison as commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and replaced him with Palace official Ronaldo Geron Jr.

Aquino swore in Geron on Wednesday night, as a report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) found Mison and 17 others liable for the repeated escapes of a South Korean detained at the BI.

Mison had denied reports that he would be fired, although he said he served at the pleasure of the President.

Prior to taking over the BI, an agency under the Department of Justice (DOJ), Geron served as deputy executive secretary for finance and administration under the Office of the President since July 2010, when Aquino assumed office.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters that according to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Geron “has been in public service for over 20 years.”

A lawyer, the new BI commissioner also previously served as administrator and board member of the provincial government of Batangas, his home province.

Geron graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1987 and was admitted to the Bar in 1988.

Coloma said the performance of immigration officials is always “subject to the evaluation” of the DOJ chief, in this case Secretary Benjamin Caguioa, who exercises supervisory powers over attached agencies like the BI and the National Bureau of Investigation.

It would be up to Aquino, however, to retain presidential appointees like the BI chief.

Highly reliable sources say Caguioa will be appointed in March to the Supreme Court, following the retirement of Justice Martin Villarama who opted for early retirement for health reasons.

READ MORE...

In turn, DOJ’s newly appointed undersecretary, lawyer Emmanuel Caparas, who is also a classmate of Aquino and Caguioa at the Ateneo from grade school to college (economics), will be taking over the DOJ until June 30 this year, when Aquino concludes his six-year term.


Emmanuel L. Caparas completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics at U.P. Diliman and proceeded to finish his law studies in the same university. Graduating at the top rung of U.P. Law Class 1985, he began his professional career as a research attorney in the 1986 Philippine Constitutional Commission, under the late former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion. He then joined the Supreme Court in September 1986 as a Law Clerk of then Associate Justice Florentino P. Feliciano and did work concurrently at the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. He is Undersecretary, DoF PHOTO FILE FROM DOJ.GOV.PH

The NBI has found Mison and 17 others liable for the escape of South Korean fugitive Cho Seongdae last year.

The NBI has recommended the filing of administrative charges of grave misconduct against Mison and BI guard Juan Rafael Ortega.

Criminal charges for evasion through negligence or violation of Article 224 of Revised Penal Code were recommended against BI security guards and several members of the military.

Geron started his first day in office yesterday even though there was no formal turnover after sacked commissioner Mison just issued a statement welcoming Geron as the new BI chief and asking the BI to cooperate with the new bureau chief.

“I encourage everyone in the bureau to give as much cooperation and teamwork as they had given me the past four and a half years to the new commissioner,” Mison said.

The ousted BI chief also expressed his gratitude to President Aquino for giving him the opportunity to serve in his administration. “On my part, I did what I could to follow the straight path with much dedication expected from any public servant.”

Administrative and personnel matters, and not the controversies surrounding the escape of the Korean fugitive, were the first on the agenda of Geron when he reported to the agency’s main office in Intramuros, Manila yesterday morning.

It was close to 10 a.m. when Geron arrived at the BI and called for a meeting with associate commissioners Abdullah Mangotara and Gilberto Repizo, executive director Eric Dimaculangan and the division heads.

Geron said he missed the opportunity to talk with Mison and would try to set up a meeting at the soonest possible time.

“I am extending my hand out to commissioner Mison. I would want to meet him, seek his advice because he is a good man. He is an officer and a gentleman. I received word about his statement and I am thanking him for the well wishes that he sent,” he added.

Repizo, who had been at odds with Mison over some controversial cases including that of Chinese national Wang Bo, refused to comment on the change in leadership.

“We will just move forward,” he said.

Around lunchtime Geron was given a tour of the building. “This is my first day here and I need to familiarize myself,” said Geron.

He has also planned on a working lunch with the BI officials. “The first order of the day is to review the personnel complement, staffing and budget,” he said.

Today he will meet members of the BI’s employees union and expressed his intention to see firsthand the operations at the airports in the coming days. With Edu Punay, Evelyn Macairan


PHILSTAR

DOTC chief to stay – Noy (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 8, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Despite the brickbats his administration has been getting for the poor transport service in Metro Manila, President Aquino is keeping Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya at the helm of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the brickbats his administration has been getting for the poor transport service in Metro Manila, President Aquino is keeping Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya at the helm of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters in a briefing yesterday that the former aide-de-camp of Aquino’s late mother Corazon still enjoys the Chief Executive’s trust and confidence. Abaya is also the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Party (LP).

“All Cabinet secretaries serve at the pleasure of the President and their performance is continually being assessed by the President as Chief Executive,” he said.

Abaya is being hounded by resignation calls for his failure to address transport sector woes, especially the frequent disruptions in MRT services.

His department is also being accused of initiating anomalous contracts, particularly involving the repair and maintenance of the MRT system.

“Pertaining to the day-to-day problems faced by commuters in Metro Manila, the President has tasked the DOTC and other concerned agencies to address these problems with effective solutions,” he said.

“Additional transport infrastructure are also being built and planned to provide long-term solutions for the benefit of our citizens,” he added.

Sen. Grace Poe – an independent presidential candidate – earlier asked President Aquino to sack Abaya, citing the controversial awarding of the P3.81-billion three-year MRT-3 maintenance contract to a Korean-Filipino group.

Abaya, for his part, has shrugged off resignation calls.

“As I have repeatedly said, it is a mere privilege for me to be serving our people,” Abaya said in a text message to reporters.

Abaya was appointed to the DOTC post in 2012, replacing Manuel Roxas II who moved to the Department of the Interior and Local Government and who would later be LP’s standard-bearer in the May elections.

READ MORE...

Commuters using the MRT-3 along EDSA have to endure long queues daily at stations as trains and coaches are so few and conk out frequently. \


CHAOS FOR HARDWORKING COMMUTERS -HAVE MERCY, SOMEBODY! Commuters trying to ride the MRT stand in long lines. (Mark Balmores) MB FILE PHOTO

The joint venture of Busan Transportation Corp., Edison Development & Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMICorp Inc. and Castan Corp. has yet to take over the task of maintaining the system from the previous maintenance provider, whose contract with the government lapsed last Jan. 4.

The DOTC announced the new maintenance contract with the joint venture last Dec. 24, a holiday. The deal covers the general overhaul of trains and the total replacement of the signaling system.

Previous contractor German-Filipino joint venture group Schunk Bahn-und Industrietechnik-Comm Builders & Technology Philippines (SBI-CBT JV) turned down a one-month extension of its deal with the government after the latter refused to pay the joint venture P102 million representing the balance of contract cost.

Abaya also announced yesterday the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is set to award more premium point-to-point (P2P) routes to bus operators this month as it extended the special permit earlier awarded to a tourist transport operator due to strong demand.

He explained the LTFRB has decided to extend until the end of the month the special permit for Fröhlich Tours after the deal expired last Jan. 6.

“We are pleased with the positive reception of the bus service, given the increase in ridership over the holidays. The service offers the riding public access to a convenient transportation option that can attract private car owners to shift to public transportation,” Abaya said.

The premium P2P bus service allows shorter travel time, as buses depart on a fixed schedule and travel directly from the terminal to the drop-off point. The non-stop bus service currently plies three routes to Glorietta 5 from SM North EDSA, Trinoma and SM Megamall.

Abaya pointed out the LTFRB is in the process of selecting bus operators for several premium P2P routes that would link several high-traffic origins and destinations including Makati, Ortigas Center, Alabang and Fairview.

He added the winning premium P2P bus operators would have the option to operate an interim service while the required buses are being manufactured.

Aside from the premium P2P bus service, the DOTC has established other PUV sub-categories including airport bus and rapid bus transit.

Poe, chairperson of the Senate subcommittee on public services, said yesterday her panel would resume its investigation into possible anomalies in the MRT-3 maintenance contract.

She said she would consult with her colleagues if it would be possible to conduct hearings on the matter before the Senate resumes session on Jan. 19. She said the Senate should move quickly as something undesirable might develop.

Poe said she wants to make sure Abaya and key DOTC officials will be present during the hearing. She said DOTC officials would often use out of town trips or seminars as excuse to skip hearings.

She said the panel would try to ask the officials themselves when they would be available for hearings. – Christina Mendez, Lawrence Agcaoili

--------------------------------------

RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Poe slams Palace decision to keep Abaya (philstar.com) | Updated January 8, 2016 - 11:50am 1 87 googleplus1 0


Sen. Grace Poe said it is lamentable that Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya refuses to leave his post amid the MRT mess. File photos

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Grace Poe on Friday hit Malacañang for its decision to keep Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya amid transport woes plaguing the country.

"Malacañang's reported statement that it is keeping Secretary Abaya at the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) is lamentable. Equally unfortunate is the secretary’s refusal to budge from his post amid the MRT mess," Poe said.

Poe, who chairs the Senate sub-committee on transport, said she is hoping President Benigno Aquino III will heed the call of the public to appoint another person as chief of the state agency.

"Umaasa ako na pakikinggan pa rin ni Pangulong Aquino ang panawagan ng mga tao na magtalaga ng bagong pinuno ng DOTC na may kakayahan at kikilos nang mabilis at maayos para naman magkaroon ng kaginhawaan ang mga mananakay ng MRT-3 kahit sa natitirang limang buwan ng administrasyong ito," she said.

"Kahit sinong makakita ng kilo-kilometrong pila sa mga istasyon araw-araw at makaranas na makipagsiksikan sa train na kadalasan ay tumitirik ay hindi na magdadalawang isip na may malaking problema sa sistema ng MRT3," she added.

Poe, who is running for president in 2016, said the administration had all the resources to fix the MRT mess since day one.

"Let us stop invoking the original sin through the disadvantageous contract entered into by the past administrations on the MRT-3. Let us get along with this deal and gather our resources to fix whatever we can," she said.

The senator added that there is uncertainty about the safety of the trains as the South Korean Busan Transport Corp. reportedly opted out. The German-Filipino maintenance provider also rejected the extension of its services, she said.

"What’s the real score, Secretary Abaya? Who is maintaining the trains right now? What guarantee can you give that it is safe to board the trains?" Poe said.


PHILSTAR

Mamasapano probe: Noy not afraid to face truth By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 8, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


Coloma said President Aquino himself addressed the nation several times to answer the questions involving the Mamasapano operation. STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - As senators prepare to resume investigation into the Mamasapano tragedy, Malacañang said yesterday President Aquino and his officials are ready to face the truth, the pursuit of which they have never evaded.

In a press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. reiterated that in the many investigations conducted related to the incident, administration officials had always cooperated.

“It only shows that in all opportunities, the government faced and is facing the truth and that is the important thing about the incident in Mamasapano,” Coloma said.

The Senate is set to reopen the Mamasapano investigation on Jan. 25, the first anniversary of the incident.


COLOMA

Coloma said there had been exhaustive discussions on the issue during the various probes conducted by the Senate itself, the Philippine National Police-Board of Inquiry, the House of Representatives, the Commission on Human Rights, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Department of Justice, which filed charges against those allegedly responsible for the brutal killing of 44 members of the Special Action Force.

Coloma also said the reopening of the Mamasapano investigation at the Senate should not affect the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The government aims to have the BBL passed to fully push forward the peace process in Mindanao.

“It is also the legislators’ duty to uphold the process while performing other duties such as conducting investigations,” Coloma said.

The BBL is one of the casualties of the Mamasapano incident due to the MILF’s involvement in the carnage.

The SAF members were on a mission to capture or immobilize wanted terrorists.

“The most important thing in all of these is to find out the truth and serve justice (to the SAF 44),” Coloma said.

“In all opportunities, the government had been honest and truthful. All questions were faced and answered,” he said.

Coloma said President Aquino himself addressed the nation several times to answer the questions involving the Mamasapano operation.

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New developments In September, Coloma said Aquino himself announced that there were new developments regarding the Mamasapano issue and that within the same week, they were tackled.

Coloma was apparently referring to the so-called alternative truth or version of the incident wherein the SAF 44’s accomplishment of the mission to kill Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan was put in question.


PNoy's idea of 'alternative truth' on Mamasapano massacre. PHOTO FROM PHILIPPINE ONLINE CHRONICLE

But Aquino himself declared later that based on evidence, there was no doubt the SAF commandos were indeed the ones who neutralized Marwan.

The President maintained he was not given accurate information to make the correct decisions when the operation to arrest Marwan and another suspected international terrorist, Abdul Basit Usman, was carried out. Usman was killed in another operation in May last year.

The President was taken to task for allowing then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima to lead the operation along with then SAF commander Director Getulio Napeñas. Aquino said he asked the two to coordinate the operation with authorities, including the military, but was disobeyed.

Aquino also said his side of the story must be considered even as he noted that he was responsible for all police and military operations being the commander-in-chief.


MORALES

The Office of the Ombudsman absolved Aquino of any liability related to the Mamasapano operation while charges were recommended against Purisima, Napeñas and other police officials.

Not at fault The draft of the House report on the matter also said the President was not at fault because the officials on the ground lied to him about what was really going on during the operation.

But the Senate found the President “ultimately responsible” for the incident while the Board of Inquiry said he broke the chain of command, which the Palace disputed by stating that Aquino’s orders to coordinate the mission were disregarded and the police, being a civilian organization, did not follow such a rule.

Napeñas had admitted he did not coordinate the operation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) because there might be leaks.

Both the PNP and AFP said they learned from the incident since the military was accused of delaying the deployment of troops to help the SAF operatives being attacked by members of the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and a private armed group.

The Palace said it would not dwell on the possible motivations of the senators, particularly Grace Poe and Juan Ponce Enrile, in pushing for the reopening of the Mamasapano investigation.

No effect on BBL Senate President Franklin Drilon said the resumption of the Mamasapano probe should not interfere in the legislative work of the Senate, particularly in efforts to have the BBL passed.

Drilon said that he would not stand in the way of the desire of Enrile to reopen the investigation if the intention is to bring further clarity to the incident.

“If reopening the Mamasapano will allow our esteemed colleague Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to ask questions that he deemed are important to ferret out the truth, then we support it,” Drilon said.

“But given the upper chamber’s extremely tight working schedule, I am really hoping that the additional hearings will not affect the Senate’s work on its continuing legislative priorities,” he added.


DRILON

Drilon noted that the Senate has a lot of important matters to deal with when it resumes session on Jan. 18 such as the BBL and the proposed salary hike for public sector workers.

With the campaign period for the May elections also coming up, the Senate has very little time left to accomplish all pending matters.

“When we resume our plenary sessions on Jan. 18, we have only about nine full session days left before we again adjourn our sessions on Feb. 5,” Drilon said.

“I am hopeful that reopening the Mamasapano probe will not draw time, attention and energies away from our lawmaking duties,” he added.

“The Mamasapano incident had created an immense political storm that seriously affected the peace process which we had hoped would end decades of armed conflict in that part of the country,” Drilon said.

Justice elusive Lawmakers from the Bayan Muna party-list group said yesterday the reopening of the Senate investigation into the Mamasapano incident should pin down the accountability of President Aquino and finally give justice to the victims of the carnage.

“The ghost of Mamasapano will continue to haunt the Aquino administration until such time President Aquino himself and the US government are found primarily culpable for the bungled anti-operations in Maguindanao,” Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

“We welcome this Senate move led by Sen. Grace Poe to reopen the investigation on the bloody Mamasapano operations. More than revealing new pieces of evidence, however, we also hope that the investigation will finally provide justice for the victims,” Colmenares said. – With Delon Porcalla, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Michael Punongbayan, Jess Diaz


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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