Source:  Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The contract to operate two of Metro Manila’s main commuter lines will likely be put on the auction block in July, with the government now trimming down the list of groups that will be allowed to bid.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose de Jesus said 50 foreign and local companies had expressed interest in bidding for the P14-billion contract.

The department, he said, wanted to trim down this list to exclude companies that were not likely to qualify in terms of financial strength and technical abilities.

Companies having similar shareholders with other potential bidders will also be barred from joining the auction.

De Jesus earlier said the government wanted the bidding process to start by June this year, but the target had been pushed back by a month to give the Department of Transportation and Communications enough time to prepare.

He said the department had been taking time to screen potential bidders so that companies that were not likely to qualify would no longer have to pay P500,000 to buy the bid documents.

The combined operations and maintenance contract for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) line 1 and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is a project under President Aquino’s public private partnership (PPP) scheme.

The PPP program is meant to attract the private sector to invest in projects that the government cannot afford or is not competent enough to do on its own.

The winning bidder is scheduled to take over the LRT-MRT operations at the start of 2012.

The operations contract will be separate from the deal to expand the capacity and improve the facilities of the MRT and LRT-1 lines.

Both train lines have been hit with several technical malfunctions since the start of the year due to overloading for the MRT and to wear and tear because of age for LRT-1.

LRT-1 runs from Baclaran in Pasay to Roosevelt in Quezon City while the MRT spans from Taft Avenue to North Avenue along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue.