These are bad times for international trade – with Brexit quarantining the rest of Europe, and Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the US-initiated Trans-Pacific Partnership crushing the trade deal. Still there’s a counter-tide: the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) is now in force, since two-thirds, or 112, of the countries under the World Trade Organization recently ratified it.
The TFA would simplify WTO members’ import rules and cut Customs red tape. Common computerization would flush out border corruption and inefficiencies. Inspectors and importers in different lands would be put in direct contact.
Goods, especially perishables, would flow faster, and boost world trade initially by $1 trillion. Every person on earth would enjoy $9 to $133 in cheaper imports per year. That’s P450 to P6,650 per Filipino, says Dr. Francis Chua, founding chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce-Philippines. ICC chapters lobbied for their governments’ approval of the TFA, since its drafting in 2013. About 20 million jobs worldwide will be generated by the easier trade. That too, says Chua, is direly needed in the Philippines.
Not only agriculture, health, and employment would be bolstered, according to ICC chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal. TFA would most benefit micro, small, and medium enterprises that comprise 99.6 percent of registered businesses. Implementing TFA provisions in the Philippines would be the responsibility of Trade Undersecretary Manuel Teehankee.
At the Senate last Oct. MRT-3 manager Deo Leo Manalo promised that 48 new coaches from China would be running by Feb. 2017. It’s now mid-Mar., with not one coach on track. Manalo takes after his ex-transport boss Joseph Abaya; the latter had vowed to field the Chinese trains by Mar. last year. Abaya and four high schoolmates who ran the metro rail system to the ground have since left. Of that mafia of six, only Manalo remains. At a House of Reps hearing this week were unraveled four reasons why the new trains are inoperative, which Manalo had been hiding all along.
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First – Manalo had to admit under intense grilling – the Dept. of Transport has not accepted formally any of the coaches. Due to that, based on the contract with Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corp., the coaches cannot be put to use.
Second, the DOTr cannot officially accept the coaches for lack of basic tests, parts, and papers. Not one was test-run for 5,000 km at the Dalian factory. The tests – for safety, durability, and reliability – should have been at varying speeds, slopes, and curves. Lacking those, the coaches have no individual history books that list every part, serial number, and replacement due date. Without history books, there can be no proper maintenance record. MRT-3 can risk test-running the coaches on its tracks. But that could crush the rails that already are deteriorated from sloppy upkeep by contractor Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI). The MRT-3’s twice to thrice daily breakdowns would worsen.
Third, the Chinese trains arrived without the most crucial safety feature – signaling. That electronic system keeps safe distances between trains, automatically brakes them in emergencies, and enables the control center to monitor where each train is at any time. So far only 15 of the 48 belatedly have been fitted with ATPs (automatic train protectors) from Bombardier-Canada. Compatibility glitches have arisen. Even if those are solved, the ATP signaling still need testing along with other safety works, like auto-brakes, auto-door open, and auto-alarms, which should have been done before delivery.
Fourth, the present MRT-3 power supply is inadequate to take on any more coaches than the original Czech-made 73 bought in 2000. Only last month did Manalo and new transport chief Arthur Tugade order a power upgrade. That, along with expansion of MRT-3’s depot to take in the additional 48 coaches, would take 15 months. Some of the coaches are now parked at the MRT-3 repair yard in Quezon City, most in the sister LRT-1’s garage in Pasay City 17 km away. More test-runs would then be done with the new power supply and depot space.
How did this slipshod train purchase and piecemeal works come about? That’s for Manalo to explain. He was Project Management Officer, in charge of train specifications, power upgrade, and depot expansion in 2013, when Abaya contracted Dalian for P3.8 billion.
Brokering for Dalian then was Eugene Rapanut, now boss of MRT-3 maintenance contractor BURI. With him is Marlo dela Cruz, of past contractors PH Trams and Global Epcom, 2012-2015. They reportedly were Liberal Party-mates of Abaya. Former MRT-3 general manager Al Vitangcol told the Ombudsman of a five-percent (P195-million) kickback in the Dalian deal.
Despite the idle coaches, Manalo is pestering DOTr to pay 70-percent, or P2.7 billion, of Dalian’s contract. In the House hearing it was revealed that the first prototype, delivered in Aug. 2015, had not been accepted because lacking traction motors. Per contract, none of the succeeding 47 coaches should have followed. Dalian should be fined for late, spotty work.
Manalo also is asking DOTr to pay BURI’s monthly maintenance billing of P53.5 million, despite no proof of spare parts and equipment purchase. It was revealed at the House hearing too that BURI has not supplied the crucial truing machine to restore worn-out metal wheels. Instead, it had subcontracted the work to a machine shop in Bulacan.
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SOURCE: NEWS5, PHILSTAR