MRT-7 awaits Aquino’s go-signal
When and how the long-delayed Metro Rail Transit line 7 (MRT-7) will start construction now depends on President Aquino who chairs the Neda board

MANILA, Philippines – When and how the long-delayed Metro Rail Transit line 7 (MRT-7) will start construction now depends on President Benigno Aquino III.

The cost comparison of MRT-7 against other existing rail systems in Metro Manila, including the MRT-3 and LRT (Light Rail Transit) lines 1 and 2, have been submitted to the National Economic Development Authority (Neda) Board, which Aquino chairs.

The cost comparison is the latest of the requirements the board imposed to start the construction of the US$1.2 billion railway system connecting Quezon City to the neighboring province of Bulacan. It has been delayed for over 5 years.

“The MRT-7 is now with the President. Once the Neda Board gives its approval then we will issue the notice to proceed,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya told reporters on Wednesday, September 11.

“We have forwarded a memo to the President as directed by Neda, addressing the unit cost comparison of the various rail projects,” he added.

According to the transport chief, Neda wants a comparison of the project cost, project scope and possibly the railway fares of MRT-7 versus as the other rail lines in the metropolis.

“Just a check to make sure that price are relatively the same. When we compared, it seems to be similarly priced on unit costs,” Abaya explained.

He said the cost scrutiny is part of lessons they learned from the MRT-3 experience. The government has spent some P75 billion in subsidy for the past 10 years, largely because the loans of the consortium that built MRT-3 were guaranteed by the Philippine government.

READ: MRT-7 contract requires shock absorbers, no derails – San Miguel

The MRT-7 project involves the construction of a 22-kilometer train line with 14 stations traversing North Avenue, Elliptical Road, Commonwealth Avenue, Quirino Avenue, and San Jose del Monte in Bulacan.

San Miguel Holdings Corp. is the proponent of MRT-7 and has awarded to the Marubeni-DMCI consortium the contract for the engineering, procurement, construction, and commissioning of the railway project.

READ: San Miguel secures JICA funding for MRT-7

San Miguel acquired 51% interest in Universal LRT Corp., which held the right to develop the MRT-7 and used to be owned by Israeli businessman Eli Levin before he sold it to businessman Salvador Zamora II.

The project’s 5-year delay was due to the failure of the proponent to secure a performance undertaking from the Department of Finance (DOF). A performance undertaking is crucial so the MRT-7 project proponent can secure financial closure for the project.

Initially, construction was supposed to start in 2010 and the project complete by 2014. –

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