MPIC ‘neutral’ on common LRT/MRT station site

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METRO Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) said it is neutral when it comes to the issue of where to locate the common station for the Light Rail Transit Line 1, Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3, and the future MRT 7.

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“We are exploring legal options. As of now, there’s nothing definitive,” MPIC chairman Manuel Pangilinan told reporters on the sidelines of the strategic partnership between the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Rocket Internet AG Rocket last week.

Earlier, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the government from implementing the transfer of the common station from its original location in front of SM City North EDSA to Trinoma Mall, owned by MPIC partner the Ayala Group.

“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,” 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.”

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 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 a 2009 agreement between SM Prime and the Department of Transportation and Communications, 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 that is expected to help alleviate the 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, 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.

Meanwhile, the LRTA board last month approved the award of the P64.9 billion LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension (Cavex) project to the Ayala-Metro Pacific joint venture, said Hernando Carbrera, corporate secretary of LRTA.

The lone bidder for the 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 Light Rail Manila 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), the LRT 1 Cavite Extension project 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 [the Ayala and SM Group]. 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,” Pangilinan said.

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