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By Krista A. M. Montealegre, Senior Reporter

Railway project could clear hurdle

Posted on October 05, 2015

THE DEADLOCK on a project that will link Metro Manila’s two elevated railways may soon be over, with a senior SM official saying last week that the group was open to the government’s proposal to build two “common stations.”

Overhead track of LRT-1 in front of SM North EDSA. Photo by Crecencio Cruz
SM Investments Corp. Chief Financial Officer Jose T. Sio told reporters on Friday that the conglomerate is not against the government’s plan to build common stations -- one in front of its SM City North EDSA and another near the Ayala group’s TriNoma mall -- as long as “it’s a win-win situation for the benefit of the public.”

“If that will be the solution, yes,” Mr. Sio said, when asked if it would not oppose the government’s proposal to have two “common stations.”

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) is offering a compromise with the SM group for the train station deal that has been blamed for the delay of other infrastructure projects.

Ang position ko is very clear and simple: we have a contract. Show us what the compromise is and we’ll see,” SM Prime Holdings, Inc. President Hans T. Sy said last month.

In November last year, the DoTC said “negotiations are ongoing” for a proposed second common station near SM City North EDSA that will connect the planned Metro Rail Transit Line 7 to MRT-3.

The proposed first common station near Ayala’s TriNoma mall will then connect Light Rail Transit-1 and MRT-3.

The construction of two common stations was meant to resolve a conflict with SM over the common station. SM Prime last year secured a Supreme Court stay order stopping DoTC from transferring the location of the common station to TriNoma mall.

The absence of a final decision regarding the terminal’s location is barring the construction of MRT-7 and design work for the P1.4-billion common station project that has been bundled into the P64.9-billion LRT-1 Cavite Extension public-private partnership deal.

The Ayala group is supportive of the proposal to build two common stations, which will allow the government to honor its contracts with the proponents of the MRT-7 and LRT-1 as well as the SM group, Ayala Managing Director John Eric T. Francia said in a separate interview.

Ayala’s AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp. is part of the Light Rail Manila Consortium that bagged the contract to operate, maintain, and expand LRT-1.

“It’s really between SM and DoTC. It has nothing to do with Ayala. Wala naman kaming away (We don’t have a quarrel with anyone),” Mr. Francia said.

“It’s related because their issue is hampering us and vice versa. It’s a matter of talking to the DoTC and if we need to talk and decide on certain things with other private sector proponents, we’re happy to do that. For now, DoTC should take the lead because they are the ones at the center, having agreements with MRT-7, LRT-1 and an MoA [memorandum of agreement] with SM.”

The conglomerates of the Sy and Ayala families have teamed up in a number of projects since deciding to jointly manage and develop the Ortigas family’s OCLP Holdings, Inc. in November 2014 after a two-year legal tussle. Early this year, Ayala Land, Inc. and SM Prime teamed up with Megaworld Corp. and Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. to form Trident Infrastructure and Development Corp., or Team Trident, in vying for the P122.8-billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project. In June, SM Prime and Ayala Land-owned consortium won the bid to develop a 26-hectare lot of the South Road Properties in Cebu City.