DOTr exec says previous admin committed procurement misstep in LRT Cavite Extension project

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for Railway Cesar Chavez told congressmen "there was something wrong" with the procurement system of the previous Duterte administration in connection with the LRT (Light Rail Transit) Line 1 Cavite Extension Project.

Parañaque City 2nd district Rep. Gus Tambunting (left) and DOTr Undersecretary Cesar Chavez (HREP website)

Chavez made this admission after he was seemingly placed on the hot seat by the solons during a public hearing of the House Committee on Transportation on Thursday, Feb. 16.

During the hearing, the attending solons grilled Chavez over the non-usage of the 80 LRVs (light rail vehicles) or coaches that the government procured from Japan-Mexican consortium Mitsubishi-CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocariles). Parañaque City 2nd district Rep. Gus Tambunting was one of them.

The procurement contract called for three purchase of the Philippine government of 120 LRVs to the tune of P12 billion. So far, P80 billion have been paid to the contractor.

"Bakit hindi ginagamit , kung pwedeng gamitin?" (Why aren't you using , if you can use them?)" Tambunting asked the DOTr official during the former's interpellation.

"May water leak po. Ayaw po naman natin na mafe-Facebook tayo na panahon ng tag-ulan ay 'umuulan' din po sa loob (There is a water leak. We don't want to be called out on Facebook during the rainy season when it also 'raining' inside the coaches)," Chavez said.

"May tulo? (There's a leak?)" Tambunting clarified, to which Chavez said, "Most of them. In fact in the report, halos lahat po sila (almost all of them). Yes."

Asked by the Parañaque lawmaker if he believed that there was something wrong with the previous administration’s system, Chavez refused to answer by "yes" or "no". At least, initially.

"If you're referring to this project, the procurement of 120 , yes there is something wrong. One, the DOTr (Department of Transportation) waived its right to inspect . But I can remember, I can also acknowledge and also understand...because at that time, pandemic, very...very...," mumbled Chavez.

Antipolo City 2nd district Rep. Romeo Acop, committee chairman, then reminded Chavez: "Usec, you're not the lawyer of the past administration so kindly answer the query of the honorable Tambunting."

"There was something wrong in the procurement po," the DOTr official admitted.

"Before even accepting, before even allowing them to deliver--if they cannot at that time decide whether the 80 trains, LRVs compliant, they should have at least suspended the delivery. Ang tingin ko, dapat sinuspend muna kung hindi naman maiinspect (My view is that the devliery should have been suspended if an inspection wasn't possible)," he said.

Chavez said the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic prevented the DOTr to send inspectors to factory of the LRVs, which would have been standard practice.

At any rate, he said the leak in the LRVs violate the terms of the procurement contract, which called for "fully-welded" LRVs.

"That is not compliant. We cannot allow that po. The logical solution here is to require, as we are requiring the contractor to do rectification. And that rectification design has to be approved by the consultant," Chavez told the House panel.

He said this time, inspectors will be sent abroad before the fixed coaches are delivered to the Philippines.