By Arjay L. Balinbin

AT LEAST THREE Japanese firms, including one of the maintenance providers of Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), signaled interest in bidding for the contract to provide train sets and electrical and mechanical (E&M) systems for the Metro Manila subway project.

Department of Transportation (DoTr) Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan said that as of Jan. 21, three Japanese firms, namely: Mitsui & Co. Ltd., Mitsubishi Corp., and Sumitomo Corp., have purchased bidding documents.

“Mitsubishi has purchased bidding documents, Mitsui has purchased also, and third is Sumitomo,” Mr. Batan told BusinessWorld in a recent interview.

Sumitomo is one of the maintenance service providers of MRT-3 along with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering, Ltd. and TES Philippines, Inc.

The department published in December the invitation for Japanese firms to participate in the competitive bidding process for the procurement of E&M systems and track works for the Metro Manila Subway Project Phase 1.

It also sought bids from Japanese firms “for the design, execution and completion of 30 train sets consisting of eight electric multiple units,” or a total of 240 train cars.

According to a bulletin published in newspapers on Dec. 24, 2019, the DoTr said bids for the train sets should be submitted by 10 a.m. on March 17, 2020 with a ¥600-million bid security at the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM-PS) in Manila.

For E&M systems and track works, the DoTr set a March 24, 2020 deadline for submission of bids, along with an ¥800-million bid security.

Mr. Batan said the trains and electro-mechanical systems contracts will be awarded to the winning bidders “by the middle of this year.”

The first phase of the Metro Manila subway project covers three packages, namely: rolling stock; E&M system and track works; as well as the first three underground stations (Quirino Highway, Tandang Sora, North Avenue), tunnels and depot construction, depot equipment and buildings.

The government broke ground for the first three stations of the subway project in February last year after the DoTr signed a P51-billion deal for that package with the Shimizu Joint Venture, which consists of Shimizu Corp., Fujita Corp., Takenaka Civil Engineering Company Ltd. and EEI Corp.

The Philippines and Japan signed in March 2018 the first tranche of the P355.6-billion loan for the Metro Manila subway project.

While the public will have to wait until 2025 for full operations of the 36-kilometer subway, the government targets partial operations — covering the first three stations — by 2022.

Mr. Batan said the suppliers of trains and E&M systems will have to start delivering in 2021 the requirements of the section that will be up for partial operations by 2022.

“They have to deliver some tracks, some rolling stock; but the rest, of course, will be delivered according to the schedule of the remainder of the system,” he said.

The government estimates 100,000 commuters will use the partially opened subway system daily. The figure is expected to rise to 370,000 passengers daily once the subway is fully operational.

The completed subway system will have 14-15 stations between Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City. It will also link up with Metro Manila’s other railways at the common station being built along North Avenue in Quezon City.