MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) defended its decision in choosing Ayala Land’s Trinoma mall as the location of the proposed common station of three major railways instead of SM’s North EDSA mall.
SM has filed an injunction case before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court against the DOTC and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) due to alleged breach of contract over the location of the common station.
But Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said only the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to stop major infrastructure project.
“It is a clear policy this is a national infrastructure project in which a TRO by the Supreme Court will be the only way to stop it. I think the government should not be deprived of seeing things in a different light,” Abaya said.
He stressed that building the common station near Trinoma will generate savings to government of about P800 million to P1 billion.
“We did a comparison and it took us a while before we came to a decision whether we go SM North EDSA or Trinoma. There is a clear difference of roughly P800 million to P1 billion in cost. That in itself is a factor,” he said.
Abaya added that a station in Trinoma will also benefit the proposed Quezon Ave.–Commonwealth Ave. bus rapid transit and the Integrated Terminal System (ITS)-North Terminal project.
Ayala Land is also developing the property next to Trinoma as a central business district "Vertis North."
“It will be more convenient for people in and around, working, living, and entertaining themselves in that central business district that a common station be located nearer than crossing again EDSA to SM,” he said.
SM has cried foul over DOTC’s decision, and is seeking the issuance of injunction preventing the DOTC and LRTA from transferring the location of the common station to Trinoma.
SM has already secured naming rights to the common station for P200 million, but DOTC said it is open to refunding the full amount to SM.
SM Prime’s legal counsel Atty. Ryan San Juan, however, said a refund is unacceptable, citing investments made by SM in relation to the 2009 contract, which also specifically provides for the grant of access way or an interconnection of the common station via a bridgeway to the pertinent level of the mall.
“It’s not as easy as returning the money, a contract is a contract. As early as 2006, when all of this was being studied by all stakeholders, we redeveloped SM North EDSA having this in consideration; we have participated many technical planning sessions with the LRTA; we’ve had many investments already into this contract,” San Juan told ANC.
Abaya admitted that the signed memorandum of agreement has indeed specified that the location of the common station is at SM North EDSA.
“It is mentioned there, what you have to look at is that is the government obligated to be there. It depends on how you read the MOA,” he said, adding that the revised location of the proposed common station was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).