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MPIC not exercising option in MRT Line 3

By: Lorenz S. Marasigan

INFRASTRUCTURE conglomerate Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) has no plans to exercise its option in Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3, following a warning from the government that it risks losing a big-ticket deal that it won earlier this year.

When asked for updates on the firm’s plans related to its option in the railway line’s parent, MPIC Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan replied: “At the moment, there are no plans.”

He was also reacting to the warning given by Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya, who said the infrastructure giant stands to lose the P1.72-billion Automated Fare Collection System Project if it exercises its 48-percent option in MRT Holdings Inc.

The transport chief earlier said the terms of reference of the deal provides that the party should not be an owner of a local railway as this would constitute a conflict of interest.

AF Consortium bagged earlier this year the contract to install a unified ticketing system for the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2 and MRT 3, which will use a single, stored-value “tap-and-go” card.

The concessionaire is led by Ayala Corp. and MPIC.

The local flagship of the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd. earlier entered into a partnership agreement with the owner of MRT 3 that would allow the firm to invest $650 million to improve the services of the train system.

The venture would effectively expand the capacity of the railway system by adding more coaches to each train, allowing it to carry more cars at faster intervals. The multimillion-dollar expansion plan would double the capacity of the line to 700,000 passengers a day, from the current 350,000 passengers daily.

Aside from the $300-million proposal, the firm also offered the government $350 million for the acquisition of equity and some of the bonds issued by the MRT Corp.

The $650-million offer was presented twice to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) since the plan was birthed in 2011.

When executed, this would result in a change in ownership at MRTH.

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