MRT-3 maintenance provider sues Transportation Usec over unpaid billings

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Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — Metro Rail Transit (MRT) maintenance provider Busan Universal Rail, Inc. is suing transportation officials over unpaid billings.

The complaint was filed with the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday. The respondents are Transportation Undersecretary Cesar Chavez, senior technical assistant Hernando Cabrera, and consultant Jorgette Bellen.

Busan Rails said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) failed to pay maintenance fees for 10 billing periods, from September 2016 to July 2017.

DOTr supposedly owes Busan Rails about ₱176 million in unpaid fees.

Busan Rails corporate secretary Charles Mercado claimed Chavez deliberately delays payments to the company.

"Kunwari ang tagal ng nasa lamesa (ni Chavez) di naman niya, palipat lipat lang siya, di naman niya pinipirmahan. Kunwari this has gone to the entire procedure already except for the preparation ng voucher, e siya 'yung pipirma ng voucher. Nako, kung minsan ang tagal na. Inuupusan niya talaga, sinasadya," Mercado said in an interview Wednesday.

[Translation: For instance, it's been on Chavez's table, but he hasn't signed it, it just transfers from table to table. It may have already gone through the proper procedure except for the preparation of the voucher. And then he has to sign the voucher, sometimes it takes too long. Like he intends it to take that long.]

Mercado added Chavez supposedly imposes additional requirements without legal basis, so that the contracts with Busan Rails would eventually be terminated.

Busan Rails asked the Ombudsman to preventively suspend Chavez and Cabrera during pending the investigation.

In a statement, Chavez said he is withholding payment to safeguard resources.

"How can I be charged of graft when I am only protecting public funds?" Chavez claimed.

Chavez said Busan Rails wants DOTr to pay for a ₱4-million train unit, without a certificate of origin and a factory inspection report.

"So saan galing ito? Hinihingi muna natin ng Certificate of Origin kaya na-withheld ang payment nito," he claimed.

[Translation: Where did this come from? We're asking for the Certificate of Origin that's why payments were withheld.]

Chavez said they are closely looking into the billings of parts to make sure these are not "cannibalized" or taken away from other train wagons, for the safety of commuters.