PRIVATE concessionaire San Miguel Corp. (SMC) will present on Feb. 28 a new design proposal for the above-ground area of the Quezon Memorial Circle (QMC) station of the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) project, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said.

The new design is expected to address the concerns of the Quezon City government regarding the planned “above-ground structure” of the QMC station, which it said could affect the “integrity” of the historical site.

Transportation Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John R. Batan told reporters on Wednesday that the private proponent, SMC, has expressed openness to revise the design of the QMC station’s above-ground structure.

“SMC will present its proposal on Feb. 28, and the Quezon City government is looking forward to seeing the proposal,” he said.

He added that all parties concerned, including the Transportation department, have agreed to work together in coming up with an “acceptable design.”

This development came after Quezon City Mayor Maria Josefina “Joy” G. Belmonte issued a temporary cease-and-desist order against the “above-ground construction” of the MRT-7 QMC station as “environmentalists and historians pointed out that the station was encroaching on the integrity” of the heritage site.

Mr. Batan said the issue on the above-ground portion of the station will not affect the ongoing construction works.

“At this point, the construction at the QMC station is still at the underground area, so ongoing construction works will not be affected,” he said.

The Transportation department reported in January that the P62.7-billion MRT-7 project — which will run between North Avenue in Quezon City and San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan — was 50.69% complete.

Ms. Belmonte argued that the MRT-7 has “greatly exceeded the agreed area for construction.”

“Based on the project’s permit and clearance, the contractor indicated 4,997 square meters as its floor area. However, the proposed floor area is more than five times the approved figure,” the city said.

Mr. Batan explained that the reference point for Quezon City’s claim is the old design of the QMC station when the MRT-7 project was approved in 2008.

He said that when the project was about to be implemented in 2016, the design of the QMC station had to be updated in consideration of the “substantial” change in the ridership forecast.

“In 2008, the station would have been sufficient to accommodate the then expected ridership of MRT-7. The concessionaire presented an updated detailed engineering design in 2016 to match the conditions at that point,” he said.

Mr. Batan added that the updated design was only scrutinized when the developer was already about to proceed with the above-ground construction works.

“Upon looking at it further, they noticed that perhaps some adjustments can still be made to properly align the station with the general area of the QMC,” he said.

Ms. Belmonte said the city “is in full support” of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s infrastructure program but it has “grave reservations about the desecration of the famous heritage site, especially as the construction was affecting the surface of the park.”

“We recognize their concern about the cultural and historical integrity of the QMC,” Mr. Batan said.

The MRT-7 project has three components: a 23-kilometer rail transit system with 14 stations; a six-lane highway between North Luzon Expressway and a planned Intermodal Transportation Terminal (ITT); and the ITT itself that can accommodate 200 buses at a time. Travel time from end to end is estimated at 34 minutes.

SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang targets to complete the project by 2022 and operate the first portion of the railway running from the North EDSA common station to Fairview by the end of 2021. — Arjay L. Balinbin