Awarding of LRT 1 extension deal also deferred

by Lorenz S. Marasigan, BusinessMirror

Posted at Aug 11 2014 09:33 AM | Updated as of Aug 11 2014 05:33 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has decided to also shelve the awarding of the P64.9-billion Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 Cavite Extension deal to its winning bidder following the stay order issued by the Supreme Court (SC) on the relocation of the P1.4-billion Common Station.

Transportation Spokesman Michael Arthur C. Sagcal said the DOTC decided to defer the granting of the multibillion-peso contract to the Light Rail Manila Consortium of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and Ayala Corp. as this might violate the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the High Court against the department and the railway regulator in view of the complaint filed by SM Prime Holdings Inc.

“We are still looking at how the TRO could affect the awarding of the LRT Cavite Extension deal. In the meantime, that we are reviewing the legal implications of this, we are holding the awarding of the contract,” he said in a phone interview on Sunday.

The design component of the common station was included in the P65-billion railway-expansion contract.

The Supreme Court last month issued a stay order enjoining the transportation agency and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) from transferring the common station in front of SM North Edsa to the new site in front of TriNoma Mall, both of which are situated in Quezon City.

The property arm of SM Investments Corp. and the two government agencies were ordered to submit their comments on the matter until today.

However, more than the location of the common hub, what matters for a member of the winning consortium is the awarding of the multibillion-peso railway deal.

MPIC Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said his firm is reviewing if there are any legal options at its disposal to hasten the awarding of the P65-billion railway-extension deal.

“We’re neutral as to where it is. We are open to both as we don’t have any business in real estate; we’re just interested in the train system,” he said in an interview.

‘Our position...stands’

In order to appease the Sy family, which earlier paid P200 million for the naming rights of the common hub, the government proposed to construct two “mini” common stations to end the feud on the facility’s location.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya earlier said his agency is mulling over the prospect of constructing two common stations to address the legal issues hounding the project.

Under the original proposal, the common station will connect three urban transit lines: the LRT 1, the MRT 3, and the future MRT Line 7, which will run from the Common Station to Bulacan via Commonwealth Avenue.

The new proposal, Sagcal said, is being finalized by the DOTC.

SM Prime Legal Counsel Ryan C. San Juan, however, noted that the property arm of the Sy family’s holdings firm is yet to receive the actual offer of the transportation agency, thus, its position on the issue remains: that the common station must solely be built in front of SM North Edsa and not near rival TriNoma Mall’s vicinity.

“Our position, as expressed in our statement last week, and in the cases we filed, thus, stands,” he said in a brief text message.

Earlier this year, the transport agency’s chief said his office has chosen the Ayala-owned TriNoma Mall to be the location for the common hub, as this would result in a more advantageous deal for the government.

But the move, SM Prime argued was in violation of a memorandum of agreement it struck with the LRTA in September 2009 on the construction of the common station in front of SM City North Edsa.

SM Prime also emphasized that the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) approved the common station’s location to be in front of the Sy-owned mall during the previous administration, in exchange of P200 million for its naming rights.

But the government argued that the Neda approval has already been outdated, citing a 2013 agreement inked by the planning board.

This prompted the publicly listed firm to seek legal remedies, bringing the case to the high court.