THE Philippines Department of Transportation (DOTr) is now working to complete the terms of reference for tendering a contract to operate and maintain the 17km Mass Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) in Metro Manila, expecting to start procurement by the first quarter of 2025.

According to transportation undersecretary, Mr Timothy John Batan, DOTr is being assisted in its work by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The elevated MRT-3 metro line is currently operated by Metro Rail Transit under a contract which expires next year.

Potentially bidding for the contract are some of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines, including San Miguel (SMC) and Metro Pacific Investments (MPIC).

SMC is involved in the project to build the 23km MRT-7 line from Quezon City to Bulacan, while MPIC holds a majority stake in the operator of Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1). Both MRT-7 and LRT-1 will interchange with MRT-3 at Grand Central station, which is currently under construction.

Both SMC and MPIC have previously submitted unsolicited proposals to operate and maintain MRT-3. MPIC chairman, Mr Manuel Pangilinan, has expressed his willingness to mount a joint bid with SMC.

One challenge will be ensuring that the public-private partnership (PPP) contract to operate and maintain MRT-3 will provide returns sufficient to attract the private sector. Transportation Secretary, Mr Jaime Bautista, has acknowledged that the government would still have to contribute to operating costs.

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