MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez questioned officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Wednesday, January 25, about the agreed location and plan for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-Light Rail Transit (LRT) common station.
Alvarez, who was transportation secretary under former President Gloria Arroyo’s administration, said the original plan for the common station, crafted in 2009, is the most practical one.
“Under that proposed location (2009)…the government will only spend P700 million. SM already paid P200 million for the naming rights so [there is only a balance of] P500 million. But in your proposal, you pegged the cost at P2.8 billion,” Alvarez told DOTr officials during a hearing by the House transportation committee.
He also stressed that the first location – in front of SM North EDSA – provides for a seamless transfer for the passengers of the 3 lines: MRT-3, LRT-1, and MRT-7, which is still under construction.
“Common sense dictates that, that is the best common station,” said Alvarez in a press briefing after the hearing. (READ: Alvarez: P2.8-billion MRT-LRT common station too expensive)
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, meanwhile, said that if the project is pursued, the transportation department may anticipate another “blunder”.
“When we built MRT line 3, we did not connect it to LRT line 1. Stations were placed only up until North Avenue. So those coming in from Caloocan would have to take the bus before they reach line 3 until we connected the two lines,” said Suarez during the House hearing.
He also said that the MRT-3 and LRT-2 should have a seamless connection but was not done to allegedly accommodate the interest of the owners of Gateway Mall. The two train lines meet in Cubao but no common station was built there. (LOOK: Proposed design of MRT-LRT common station)
“Now, we are going to commit another blunder here,” said Suarez.
DOTr Undersecretary Raoul Creencia defended the project.
Addressing the perceived hefty cost, he said that as early as 2013, the rates had been adjusted to P2.6 billion after the agency determined additional cost.
Creencia also noted that the station must be built in between SM North EDSA and TriNoma because it has a larger area that could fit the 13,000-square meter station.
But Alvarez, during the hearing, did not seem to find the explanation acceptable. He even questioned Creencia’s occupying a high post in the DOTr as he asked him if he is the same Creencia in what he referred to as the “[Vanderwood] contract”.
When the DOTr official answered in the affirmative, Alvarez said sarcastically: “Galing mo ano (You’re so good, aren’t you), you managed to be appointed in very important positions.”
During the press briefing, Alvarez bared that they have filed a resolution investigating the so-called “[Vanderwood] contract” in which Creencia is supposedly also involved. Refusing to disclose any more details, the Speaker said the contract would reveal a big anomaly.
The said contract is a P3.2-billion lease contract in 2015 between the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and Vanderwood Management Corp. (VMC). The incumbent undersecretary was tagged in the anomaly as the former government corporate counsel.
The Volunteers against Crime and Corruption has filed a complaint against PAGCOR and Creencia in November last year, accusing them of paying VMC P234 million for rentals that were non-existent. – Rappler.com