MANILA, Philippines – Of all of Manila’s sprawling mega projects, the 13,700-square-meter (sqm) common station deal that will connect the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines is perhaps the most controversial and coveted contract.
It took the project a decade since its inception way back in 2007 before construction could finally begin. The culprit is a legal squabble between the government and the group of the Philippines’ richest, the Sy family, over the naming rights for the common station.
The project has seen 3 transportation secretaries come and go.
“After years and years of waiting, we will break ground on the MRT-LRT Common Station on September 29,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said on the sidelines of an event in Taguig City last week. (READ: After a year, LRT-MRT common station problem still unsolved)
State-run Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) on September 28, 2009 accepted P200 million from SM Prime Holdings Incorporated to place the common station beside SM North City EDSA and name it after the mall. The agreement was signed during the leadership of the late Leandro Mendoza, former transportation chief.
3 chiefs come and go
But when former transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya took over, the direction of the project changed. Here is where the problem emerged.
In April 2014, Abaya and his department decided to give the winner of the P65-billion extension of the LRT Line 1 (LRT1) a say in the construction of the common station.
The group that bagged the project was composed of the companies of Manuel Pangilinan and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala. Ayala Corporation’s TriNoma mall is located in front of SM City North EDSA.
It was also during that year when the transportation department insisted on putting up the common station near TriNoma, saying it would result in P1 billion in savings to the government.
Because of the changes in terms, SM Prime sued the government for allegedly breaching their 2009 “naming rights” agreement.
In August 2014, SM Prime obtained a Supreme Court (SC) order stopping the transportation department and the LRTA from transferring the location of the common station to TriNoma.
Abaya had vowed a compromise agreement to push through with the construction of the badly-needed project as soon as possible. One of his ideas was to put up two small common stations.
But no agreement was reached during the Aquino administration.
A new, costlier compromise deal
When Tugade took office, he vowed to solve the common station issue during his 1st year as transportation chief. Within his 1st year, a deal was reached: the proposed MRT-LRT Common Station would be built between SM North EDSA and TriNoma.
But its price tag? Higher by P200 million – an additional expense for the government. (READ: Commercial operations for MRT-LRT Common Station eyed in April 2019)
The new project cost is P2.8 billion – higher than the original price for the 2009 location, which was set at P2.6 billion at 7,200 sqm; and the 2014 location pegged at P1.4 billion at 2,500 sqm.
“The current location is with 13,700 sqm, so it is a bigger station with almost double the capacity of the original 2009 design at only P200 million more,” Tugade had said.
Spanning over 13,700 sqm, the MRT-LRT Common Station will have 3 essential components:
- Area A where the platform and concourse for LRT Line 1 (LRT1) and MRT Line 3 (MRT3) are located;
- Area B where the two concourses connecting Areas A and C are located; as well as
- Area C where the platform for MRT Line 7 (MRT7) is located
Tugade had said the agreement would pave the way for the filing of a joint motion to the SC to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO).
Once the TRO is lifted, the only headache left would be the right-of-way delivery by the government. If delivered timely, commuters in Metro Manila will experience the country’s first common station by April 2019. – Rappler.com
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