THE TIMETABLE for a railway project aimed at meeting growing commuter needs in Cavite province risks being extended as the deadline for submission by interested parties of documents to qualify for bidding was on Thursday moved for a third time.
The P65.09-billion Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 6 Project involves a 19-kilometer elevated railway that will run along the middle of Aguinaldo Highway between the terminus of the LRT 1 Cavite Extension (CavEx) in Niyog, Bacoor and Dasmariñas City.

“Currently, Cavite is experiencing rapid growth, and many of its residents travel to Manila for work and education purposes,” read a project brief on the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center Web site.

“The project will improve passenger mobility and reduce the volume of vehicular traffic in the Cavite area by providing a higher capacity mass transit system. It also aims to spur economic development along the extension corridor.”

Daily LRT Line 6 passenger traffic has been estimated to grow to 256,000 by 2040 from 240,000 in 2030 and from 192,000 in 2020, according to the project brief.

A Sept. 8 notice to prospective bidders by project implementor, the Department of Transportation (DoTr), said “[t]he deadline for submission of pre-qualification documents [on Sept. 9] is deferred to a date to be advised” as “[t]he DoTr is currently reviewing concerns raised by prospective bidders and is determining how the project structure can address such concerns”.

It was the third time this deadline has been moved since the first one set last May 12.

The original timetable drawn up in February had set submission of bids in August, opening of financial offers and subsequent issuance of notice of award this month, and signing of concession agreement next month.

The government published the project’s invitation to bidders last Dec. 21.

At least 16 groups showed interest in the LRT Line 6 project by sending representatives to a pre-qualification conference last February, namely: Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc.; Ayala Corp.; Bombardier, Inc.; CFP Transaction Advisors; Daelim Industrial Company Ltd.; DMCI Holdings, Inc.; Egis S.A.; First Metro Investments Corp.; Metro Builders Corp.; Metro Pacific Investments Corp.; Mott MacDonald Group Ltd.; Ove Arup & Partners International Ltd.; Prime Asset Ventures, Inc.; Robinsons Land Corp.; San Miguel Corp. and Systra Ltd.

While neither officials of DoTr nor of interested companies were immediately available on Friday to expound on “concerns raised by prospective bidders” particularly on project structure, Special Bid Bulletin No. 01-2016 issued last March 30 bared interested parties’ request that requirements for operation and maintenance contractors be eased, that the need for separate “qualified key personnel-rolling stock expert” be scrapped, and for more information on right-of-way problems along Aguinaldo Highway in order “to be able to assess the potential risks of the project”.

“We wish to note that there were many potential investors interested in past PPP projects, but eventually are not submitting pre-qualification documents because of limited information which are constraining them to do initial due diligence,” the bulletin read.

One railway project has been awarded since the PPP program was launched in the third quarter of 2010, namely: the P64.9-billion (inclusive of a P19.3-billion official development assistance component) LRT Line 1 CavEx and O&M project.

The other rail projects in the PPP pipeline are:

• P69.3-billion Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 7 involving a three-kilometer elevated railway line with 14 stations between MRT 3 North Avenue station in Quezon City and San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan as well as a 22-km asphalt road between an intermodal terminal in Tala, Caloocan City and Bocaue Interchange of the North Luzon Expressway (Groundbreaking ceremony was held on April 20, 2016 and pre-construction work is under way);

• P170.7-billion south line of the North-South Railway Project that involves a total of 653 km between the Philippine National Railways’ (PNR) Tutuban station in Tondo, Manila and Legazpi City, Albay and whose terms are being reviewed;

• operation and maintenance of LRT Line 2 which is still being reviewed;

• PNR’s East-West Rail Project that will consist of a mostly elevated 9.4-km railway between Diliman, Quezon City and Lerma, Manila and which is still in the project evaluation stage;

• P42.89-billion LRT 4 Project that will see construction of an 11-km railway between SM City in Taytay, Rizal and the Ortigas Ave.-EDSA intersection and which is being conceptualized; and

• Manila-East Rail Transit System Project involving a railway that will connect to MRT 7 from San Mateo, Rizal, passing through Ortigas Avenue and which is also still being conceptualized.

The National Economic and Development Authority, which oversees the PPP Center, also announced last Aug. 30 that the government has received a proposal from a South Korean firm to build an LRT line in Metro Cebu.

Even earlier — last July 5 — the PPP Center said the PNR had submitted a project proposal, but did not give details.

10 September 2016
By M. M. Hernandez