The Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) from implementing the planned transfer of the common station for LRT Line 1-Metro Rail Transit Line 3-MRT 7 from its original location in front of SM City North EDSA to an area beside Trinoma.
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.
In a statement, SMPHI’s legal counsel Atty. Ryan San Juan said that, “SM Prime is not seeking to delay the LRT 1-Cavite Extension project.
Rather, we are merely asking that the DOTC/LRTA and/or the winning bidder construct the Common Station component thereof in front of SM City North EDSA, in faithful compliance with the MOA.”
He added that, “SM Prime now hopes that the DOTC and LRTA will respect, honor and abide in good faith with the terms of the MOA and continue the construction of the Common Station at its original location across from the SM City North EDSA Annex building, which was started as early as the beginning of the Aquino administration in 2010.”
Meanwhile, DOTC Spokesperson Michael Arthur Sagcal said in a text message that, “We will continue working on the award unless and until we receive any TRO or injunctive writ from the SC.”
He added that, “As we have said before, the DOTC will respect court issuances, but as long as we have not been legally prohibited from doing our work, we will continue pushing for our infrastructure projects since this is our commitment to the public.”
Earlier, the 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.
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 the 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.
DOTC said that the National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) approval that SM Prime cited had expired in 2011.
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.
SMPHI said earlier that the company had received a copy of the Pasay RTC’s decision denying its application for a TRO.
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, 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. This project will cover 14 stations.
“If indeed a TRO has been issued, we will await receipt and review it accordingly to decide on our next steps,” Sagcal said.