TRINOMA is the “slightly better” location. That is the result of an initial study conducted by a Japanese group hired by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to look into the contentious issue of where the common station for the proposed Metro Rail Transit Line-7 (MRT-7) should be built.
“We’ve hired a Japanese group to conduct a study. Initial study showed: slightly better with TriNoma, so we presented that to them,” DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya told reporters, referring to Universal LRT, the San Miguel Corp.-backed consortium that won the contract to build MRT 7.
“We have yet to get back to them. Is this efficient, would it need to be further studied? We’re at that stage,” Abaya said.
The DOTC chief did not identify the Japanese group.
DOTC wants to have the common station located at the TriNoma Mall which is owned by the Ayala Group, but this is being contested by the SM Group, which argues that it signed a memorandum of agreement with the government in 2009 to locate the proposed common station in front of SM City North EDSA.
In August, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) said it was neutral on the issue of where to locate the common station for Light Rail Transit Line 1, Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3, and the future MRT 7.
MPIC and Ayala Corp. lead the Light Rail Manila Consortium (LRMC), which bagged the contract for the P65-billion LRT-1 Cavite Extension Project (Cavex).
“We are agnostic on where it is located. It’s either SM or TriNoma or somewhere in between. We are just interested in the train system,” MPIC chairman Manuel Pangilinan said.
He affirmed that they are open to both options. “We’re not in real estate so if they tell us to move there, then we will move.”
Earlier, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the government from transferring the location of the proposed common station from the original site in front of SM City North EDSA to TriNoma Mall, which is owned by MPIC partner the Ayala Group.
The Supreme Court’s TRO reinforces SM Prime Holding Inc.’s position in the case for Specific Performance of SM Prime and LRTA’s Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) dated September 29, 2009. The case is now pending before the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City.
SM Prime filed a lawsuit against the government for changing the location of the common station to benefit a rival mall. It said it had an existing agreement with the government to build the common station for the three rail lines in front of SM North EDSA.
The government denied that it violated the 2009 agreement between SM Prime and the DOTC, which oversees LRTA. It claimed that SM Prime’s naming rights over the project expired in 2011, even as it argued further that the new location would benefit more commuters.
The P1.4-billion Common Station is part of LRT’s North Extension Project which is expected to help alleviate the public transport shortage in Metro Manila.
LRT 1 currently runs from Baclaran to Roosevelt in Quezon City, while MRT 3 runs from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City.
The planned MRT 7 will begin at Tala, Caloocan City, passing through Lagro, Fairview, Novaliches, Batasan, Diliman, and Philcoa, before ending at the planned common station at EDSA and North Avenue. The railway will serve an estimated two million commuters in the northern parts of Quezon City and Caloocan City.
Light Rail Manila Consortium, the lone bidder for the LRT 1 Cavex project, had offered to pay the government a concession premium of P9.35 billion for the right to build, operate, and manage the new rail line.
The consortium is made up of Metro Pacific’s Light Rail Corp. with a 55-percent share; Ayala Corp.’s AC Infrastructure Holdings with 35 percent; and Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings Pte. Ltd. with 10 percent.
Already approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), is the biggest infrastructure project under the government’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.
The Cavite or South Extension Project will extend the existing LRT Line 1, which covers 21 stations from Roosevelt Avenue in Quezon City to Baclaran in Pasay City. The Cavex will extend the service line by 11.7 kilometers, covering 10 more stations that will pass through the cities of Parañaque and Las Piñas up to Bacoor, Cavite.
“We are partners with them,” Pangilinan said, referring to the Ayala and SM groups. “The SM Group is with us in the tollways and the Ayalas are in the LRT 1 and single ticketing system, so we are neutral,” he said.