THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) will start hitting the ground for the construction of the common station project that will connect Metro Manila’s three urban rail systems next year as the compromise agreement could possibly be signed by parties involved by the end of 2016.

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said the agreement has been approved in principle last Monday.

“The common station, talagang bubunuin ko iyan (I will really work on that) next year, with the consent of other parties. At the rate things are going, mukhang (looks like it’s) done, but I want to see the signature on the blank, then it will be a go and we will finish it in two-and-a-half years,” Mr. Tugade told reporters in a recent interview.

“That has been pending for the last seven years… the license has been pending for so many years… baka (maybe) before the end of the year okay na,” the Transportation chief said when asked when he expects the compromise agreement to be signed.

The DoTr announced last September that a single common station to link Metro Manila’s three major rail systems will be built between SM North EDSA and Ayala Land, Inc.’s TriNoma Mall in Quezon City, finally ending a deadlock over the location.

The three systems are: the LRT Line 1 (LRT-1), Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), and the planned MRT Line 7 (MRT-7).

The project is expected to take between two and a half to three years to finish.

The DoTr said the consensus on the common station was reached during a Sept. 8 meeting with SM Prime President Hans T. Sy, SM Investments Corp. Vice-Chairperson Teresita Sy-Coson, Metro Pacific Investments Corp. Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, Ayala Corp. Chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, and San Miguel Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang.

“(They) agreed that a unified station is necessary to make commuting more convenient to the public,” the Transportation department said then.

Under the term sheet, the stakeholders agreed to “exert all reasonable effort to resolve all pending issues relating to the development of the unified station for LRT-1, MRT-3, and MRT-7, with the objective of finalizing its design, and commencing its construction at the soonest possible time, taking into consideration the respective concession and contractual rights of the stakeholders.”

To recall, in 2009, the Light Rail Transit Authority and SM Prime entered into an agreement for the common station to be located at a junction near SM City North EDSA. In 2013, the DoTr — then the Department of Transportation and Communications — decided to transfer the common station to a site across the TriNoma mall, saying this will reduce construction costs. This prompted SM Prime to sue the government for breach of contract.

In July 2014, SM Prime secured a Supreme Court (SC) stay order stopping the transfer of the common station’s site to TriNoma. The high court in May 2016 refused the government’s plea to lift the halt order.

The term sheet signed last September also showed that after a definitive agreement is signed among the stakeholders, SM Prime, DoTr and LRTA will have to agree to a compromise agreement which will determine the filing of a joint motion to lift the stay order on the common station project issued by the SC.

The cost of the project, Transportation Spokesperson Cherie F. Mercado earlier said, is not going to be far from the previous estimate, which was P1.4 billion.

23 December 2016
By Imee Charlee C. Delavin