By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

THE operator of Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) is ready to cooperate should the government push through with an investigation into an alleged irregularity in its concession agreement.

Light Rail Manila Corp. (LRMC) issued the statement after President Rodrigo R. Duterte said in a speech last week that he wanted a review of the government’s contract with the company on the operations of LRT-1.

“LRMC will cooperate with the government if there is an inquiry on its concession agreement. LRMC remains committed to providing a safe, reliable, efficient, and comfortable transportation service to the commuting public within its area of operations,” Jacqueline Gorospe, the company’s corporate communications head, said in a phone message to BusinessWorld on Monday.

LRMC is a joint venture company of Metro Pacific Investments Corp.’s (MPIC) Metro Pacific Light Rail Corp., Ayala Corp.’s AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., and the Philippine Investment Alliance for Infrastructure’s Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) PTE Ltd.

In a speech in Davao City on Friday, Mr. Duterte said he learned that the separate companies led by businessmen Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Manuel V. Pangilinan “are getting most of the contracts.”

Karami na nilang pera, sobra-sobra na. Getting most of the contract[s], LRT. Merong — silipin ko. Meron man pala sila sa LRT. Marami ’yan silang pinasukan sa gobyerno. Pero this one is really the biggest rip-off of all,” the President said.

(They have plenty of money, too much already. [They are] getting most of the contracts. I found out that they also have [a contract] with LRT. They have entered into a lot of government contracts. But this one is really the biggest rip-off of all.)

He also expressed his frustration over the alleged “onerous contracts” between the government and the two water distribution companies in Metro Manila, which are also subsidiaries of Metro Pacific and Ayala Corp.

LRMC took over operations of LRT-1 in September 2015, through a P65-billion three-decade long concession agreement with the Department of Transportation and the Light Rail Transit Authority.

During the weekend, Rep. Eric G. Yap said he would seek an investigation of the concession agreement.

On Monday, he filed a resolution seeking to investigate the alleged onerous concession agreement between the government and LRMC.

Mr. Yap of ACT-CIS party list filed House Resolution 647 that directs the appropriate House committee to conduct an investigation on the said concession agreement.

In a press release on Sunday, he claimed that the deal is “very lopsided” in favor of LRMC and a “mockery” of the Constitution.

He said the four-year-old agreement gives the company exclusive rights for 32 years, extendable to 50 years.

“Provided that this agreement will cover a 32-year period, the Gross Revenue Amount reported by the LRMC in just four years appear to be bigger than the Project Concession Fee, which may indicate an unjust and inequitable terms that may put financial burden of the agreement to the government,” part of the resolution stated.

LRT-1 spans 20.7 kilometers, an expansion of the original 15 kilometers when the line started partial operations in 1984. From 18 passenger stations spanning Baclaran to Monumento, two more stations were added in October 2010 to extend the line to Roosevelt in Quezon City.

On Monday, shares in MPIC fell by P0.19 or 5.43% to close at P3.31 each, while those of Ayala Corp. slipped by tumbled by P53.00 or 6.60% to P750 each.

MPIC is one of three Philippine subsidiaries of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining Corp.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., maintains an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group. — with Genshen L. Espedido