Proposed MRT-LRT common station unconstitutional — Alvarez

MANILA-- The memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the common terminal linking Light Railway Transit (LRT) Line 1 and Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Lines 1 and 7 is unconstitutional, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Wednesday.

In a press conference, Alvarez said the big private players involved in the project have to secure a legislative franchise from Congress allowing them to start operations.

"They [concessionaires] don't have legislative franchises to operate the railways. This [common station] is a public utility and under the Constitution, [concessionaires] need to acquire a legislative franchise to operate a public utility," Alvarez said in Filipino.

The House leader assured the MOA on the common terminal will undergo congressional scrutiny since the project would cost the government an estimated PHP2.8 billion.

"We will ensure that construction of the common station would be beneficial to the riding public and not merely for big business interests involved in the project," he added.

The agreement was signed last week by Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar with LRT Authority Administrator Reynaldo Berroya, SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI) executive chairman Hans Sy, Light Rail Manila Corp. vice chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang and North Triangle Depot Commercial Corp. (NTDCC) represented by Ayala Land Inc. vice chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala.

Under the MOA, the 13,700-square meter common station would be located between SM North EDSA and Trinoma malls in the vicinity of EDSA and North Avenue.

Alvarez noted that the original location of the common station in front of SM North Edsa, as proposed by Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, was more convenient to the riding public than the so-called "win-win" proposal, which would entail additional cost for the government.

"Your win-win solution is a win-win solution between SM and Trinoma. How about the riding public and the government? Under the [original] proposed location presented by Danilo Suarez the government will only spend PHP780 million minus the PHP200 million paid by the SM for the naming rights," Alvarez said.

The common station project started in 2009 but bogged down due to the issue of its location.

The Light Rail Transit Authority initially signed a PHP200-million deal with SMPHI to build the station in front of SM North EDSA.

Five years later, the DOTC decided to build the station near Ayala's Trinoma mall. SMPHI filed for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), which was granted by the Supreme Court in 2014 to stop the DPWH from transferring the original planned location of the common station.

For his part, Suarez said the current proposal, which situates the common station between two malls, costs higher than the previously approved designs.

"We would like to revisit this new design as we hope to avoid the blunder of the Gateway Mall connection [under the LRT 2], where commuters have to walk approximately 700 meters to transfer from MRT Line 3 to LRT Line 2. This imposes an unjustifiable inconvenience to commuters, and strongly implies no other persuasive reason but corporate greed," he said.

Suarez said the original project proposal of the common station located in SM City North EDSA Annex would have been an ideal location, considering that all roads converge in the North EDSA.

"In this so-called, 'Golden Age of Infrastructure,' we expect the government to invest only in projects that would pursue public interest. As advocates of long-term traffic solutions and supporters of the Common Station project, we in the Minority would monitor the progress of this project and ensure that no one else benefits but the public. We believe that a truly developed and progressive country presents an efficient and convenient public transportation," Suarez said. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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