MANILA, Philippines —Over a year since the High Court stopped the transfer of the site of the planned Light Rail Transit (LRT)-Metro Rail Transit (MRT) common station, the problem remains unsolved, hampering the construction of some badly-needed mass transit infrastructure projects.
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) have yet to present a compromise agreement to the private stakeholders of a common station for train systems that will converge in North Avenue, Quezon City.
The compromise agreement, according to DOTC, involves two common stations: one near SM City North EDSA that will connect MRT Line 7 (MRT7) to MRT Line 3 (MRT3), and another near Ayala’s TriNoma mall that will connect LRT Line 1 (LRT1) and MRT3.
DOTC’s new approach is meant to resolve a conflict with SM Prime over the common station. SM Prime in August 2014 obtained a Supreme Court order stopping DOTC and the LRTA from transferring the location of the common station to TriNoma mall.
But for SM Prime Holdings, Incorporated (SMPHI) Executive Vice-President Jeffrey Lim, his office is still waiting for the government’s compromise agreement.
“Wala pa din. None yet. There is no timetable for this. It is too controversial,” Lim said on the sidelines of the 9th Annual ING Finex CFO of the Year Awards in Makati City on Wednesday, November 25.
Lim, however, was circumspect on the issue, saying, “A lot that has been said already.”
“What I can say is it is really just the contract we want and we are open to discuss with the government,” he added.
Rappler sought Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya for updates, but could not be reached as of press time. He, however, told reporters last month that his office is close to securing a compromise agreement with all stakeholders.
“[It’s] hard to put a target date because you are in a compromise agreement. We are inching forward and hopefully it will move on immediately to ensure good integration and seamless passage for commuters using the train systems,” Abaya had said.
Infra projects barred
Being a component of two major mass transit infrastructure deals, the Court order on the transfer of the common station’s location is barring the construction of MRT7 and design work for the P1.4-billion ($29.77-million) common station project that has been bundled with the P64.9-billion ($1.38-billion) LRT1 Cavite Extension public-private partnership (PPP) deal. (READ: PH’s PPP thrust: Work in progress)
MRT7’s 25-year concession agreement, signed by San Miguel Corporation (SMC)-backed Universal LRT Corporation (ULC) in 2008, calls for the common station to be located near SM City-North EDSA.
The issue on the common station is also stopping the Light Rail Manila Consortium (LRMC), led by Metro Pacific Investments Corporation and Ayala Corporation, from coming up with a design for the common station.
On October 2, 2014, Light Rail Manila and the government signed the concession agreement for the deal to extend LRT1 from Baclaran to Bacoor, Cavite. The concessionaire has a say in the design of the common station, after it has been bundled with the LRT1 Cavite Extension deal.
“[W]e are raring to go. SM said they are okay as long as there’s a common station near TriNoma. ULC came to us about the two common stations. Latest is, ULC and LRMC are okay with the two common stations. We just have to secure MRT3’s go-ahead,” Abaya told reporters last month.
Executives of the Light Rail Manila and ULC said they have not received a copy of the compromise agreement yet.
Under a September 28, 2009, memorandum of agreement between SMPHI and LRTA, the common station should be beside SM North City EDSA, after it paid the government P200 million ($4.25 million) for the naming rights to the proposed station.
But the government in 2014 insisted that putting up the proposed common station near TriNoma mall would result in “P1 billion ($21.26 million) in savings to the government” and benefit passengers as the Quezon City government is establishing the North Triangle area as a new business district. – Rappler.com