Alvarez: P2.8-billion MRT-LRT common station too expensive

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said on Thursday, January 19, the House of Representatives will review the memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the terminal linking 3 Metro Manila railways, questioning the cost of the project.

The P2.8-billion agreement was signed on Wednesday, January 18, by Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar, and Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Reynaldo Berroya on behalf of the government.

From the private sector, Hans Sy (SM Prime Holdings Incorporated), Manuel Pangilinan (Light Rail Manila Corporation), Ramon Ang (San Miguel Corporation), and Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (North Triangle Depot Commercial Corporation) signed. (LOOK: Proposed design of MRT-LRT common station

"Masyadong malaki 'yung cost para… kasi kung ngayon kung titingnan natin, halos ano na iyan, privately-run na 'yan, 'yung mga train na 'yan. Ngayon ang tanong, 'yung proposal ba doon sa common station ay 'yun ba ang para sa convenience ng passengers?" the House Speaker said in a radio interview.

(The cost is too high. If we look at it now, the trains are mostly privately-run. Now the question is, is the proposal for the common station for the convenience of passengers?)

"Titingnan nating mabuti 'yan sa Congress kung papayagan natin," he added. (We will examine closely in Congress if we will allow it.)

The DOTr, in a statement on Wednesday, had explained why the project cost reached P2.8 billion.

"The DOTr is seeing this as cost of governance for passenger convenience. It is an improved and bigger station with private sector shouldering part of the cost," said the transportation department.

"The initial location was approximately 7,200 sqm, the 2nd location was approximately 2,500 sqm, while the current location is at 13,700 sqm. The size is projected to answer the future demand in passenger traffic," it added.

The common station was originally set to be placed beside SM North EDSA in 2009 on the basis of a MOA between the LRTA and SM Prime Holdings after they paid the government P200 million for the naming rights.

But in 2014, the government insisted that the common station be placed near TriNoma mall to save P1 billion.

A compromise was eventually reached in September 2016, with all parties agreeing to build the common station between SM North EDSA and TriNoma.

Not a 'true common station'?

Expected by 2019, the 13,700-square-meter common station will link the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3), the MRT7 which is still being constructed, and the Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT1).

Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) Chairperson Terry Ridon, however, criticized the project and said it was not a "true common station."

Ridon said the government must construct a "real common station" that would not compel the commuters to walk further before transferring stations.

Under the proposed design, Area A is at least 48 meters away from Area C. Area A is where the platform for the LRT1 and MRT3 are located while Area C is for the MRT7 platform. The two areas are connected by Area B.

"Long commutes not only take a huge chunk of these workers' salaries, but also take a huge toll in their physical and emotional well-being. The least that the government can do, particularly the DOTr, is to lessen their commuting problems by creating a seamless common station between all 3 rail lines," Ridon said.

"This is practically a no-win solution if they will be compelled to walk a longer way than simply transferring train lines at another level in a true common station," he added. – Rappler.com

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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