The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) welcomed the decision of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court denying SM Prime Holdings Inc.’s (SMPHI) application for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the government in connection with the Common Station project in Quezon City.
“The DOTC is pleased with the court’s decision in denying the TRO petition. It allows us to proceed in delivering our services to the public through critical infrastructure modernization projects,” Michael Arthur Sagcal, DOTC spokesperson, said in a text message.
In a seven-page order, the Pasay City Regional Trial Court on June 23 stated that “the application of temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction are denied in view of the mandatory ban under Section 3 of R.A. No. 8975.”
At the heart of this legal tussle is the planned common station that 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.
Earlier, SM Prime sued the DOTC for changing the location of a common station to benefit a rival mall. It said that it had an earlier agreement with the government that the common station would be built in front of SM City North Edsa instead of at Ayala Land Inc.’s Trinoma Mall.
DOTC denied that it violated a 2009 agreement between SM Prime and the DOTC that would have located the common station at the SM mall. It said 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.
Approval expired in 2011
DOTC said that the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) approval that SM Prime cited had expired in 2011.
On June 10, SMPHI and DOTC were given until June 19 by the court to file their pleadings on the alleged breach of agreement over the location of the common station.
In its petition, SM Prime cited its 2009 Memorandum of Agreement with the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), stating that the agreement binds the government to build the common station in front of the SM City North Edsa mall.
SM Prime also argued that NEDA approved the said location on July 7, 2009 and that in exchange, the company paid LRTA P200 million for the naming rights.
For its part, the DOTC emphasized that what matters to the transport agency is the interest of commuters and the general public.
On Tuesday, SMPHI said that the company had received a copy of the Pasay RTC’s decision denying its application for a TRO.
SMPHI legal counsel Ryan San Juan said the RTC decision was “regrettable”. In a statement, the company said: “SM Prime will now focus on its main and more important case for Specific Performance, where it seeks to enforce its rights under the valid and legally binding MOA, the existence of which has been duly admitted by both DOTC and LRTA in court, and which MOA has neither been canceled or terminated by the parties.”
The P1.4-billion Common Station project, also known as the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 North Extension Project, is part of government efforts to address the chronic public transport shortage in Metro Manila.
LRT 1 currently runs from Baclaran to Roosevelt in Quezon City, while the 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 and Fairview, Novaliches, Batasan, Diliman, Philcoa, before ending at EDSA corner North Avenue. The railway will serve an estimated two million commuters in the northern parts of Quezon City and Caloocan City. This project will cover 14 stations.
“As we have said, we will continue with our commitment to the people. We have full faith that the courts will uphold what is proper under the law,” the DOTC’s Sagcal said.