THE Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) on Monday defended its decision to build its common station project near an Ayala-owned mall in Quezon City after it was sued by SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI) for allegedly breaching a 2009 agreement that would have located the station beside SM City North EDSA.
The DOTC said SMPHI’s naming rights over the project expired in 2011, arguing further that the new location would benefit more commuters.
The common station will connect three urban transit lines: Light Rail Transit-1 (LRT 1), Metro Rail Transit-3 or (MRT-3), and the future MRT-7, which will run from the common station to Bulacan via Commonwealth Avenue.
SMPHI last week sued the DOTC for changing the location of the project next to Ayala Land Inc.’s Trinoma Mall, saying it violates a 2009 agreement between SMPHI and the DOTC.
“First of all, the NEDA approval that SMPHI is referring to expired in 2011. The 2013 NEDA approval, which is in effect, allows the Common Station to be built in the more advantageous location at MRT-3,” DOTC spokesperson Michael Arthur Sagcal said in a statement.
“Secondly, SMPHI was publicly quoted through its president in 2013 as saying that it does not mind where the Common Station is built, as long as it can exercise its alleged naming rights,” Sagcal said.
The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasay City is set to hear SM Prime’s petition today (Tuesday) to stop the DOTC from proceeding with the project.
In justifying the change of location, the DOTC said building the common station at the EDSA-North Avenue end of the MRT-3 system would result in government savings of around P800 million to P1 billion, as well as benefit more riders because the Quezon City government is developing the North Triangle area into a new central business district.
“A crucial feature in transportation development is intermodality. Commuters should not have to walk long distances to transfer from one mode of transport to another. Our policy is to promote traveling convenience and efficiency for commuters, which is why we have chosen the end of the MRT-3 line as the Common Station’s location,” Sagcal said.
In its petition, SMPHI cited its 2009 Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), alleging that the MOA binds the government to build the common station in front of the SM City North EDSA mall.
SMPHI also argues that NEDA approved the said location on July 7, 2009 and that in exchange, SMPHI had already paid LRTA P200 million as naming rights.
“It is the interest of commuters and the general public that matter to us at the DOTC.
What is important is that the riders of our LRT and MRT systems enjoy convenient, intermodal transfers,” Sagcal said.