By Russell Louis C. Ku

LIGHT Rail Manila Corp., which operates two of three rapid transit systems in Metro Manila, owes the government P332.9 million in concession fees, according to state auditors.

In a report released on Tuesday, the Commission on Audit (CoA) said the company had failed to pay the fees for the Light Rail 1 (LRT 1) Cavite extension project for five straight quarters through Oct. 2020.

State auditors said the concession payments for the project were supposed to be paid in two installments of P935.01 million by Oct. 2, 2014 and Sept. 12, 2015 — the signing and effective dates of the contract.

The rest of the concession payments worth P7.48 billion are to be paid quarterly starting Oct. 30, 2019.

The Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) “should immediately demand the amount which is already due,” the commission said.

In an audit comment, the LRTA said it asked the Transportation department in October to send a notice of demand against Light Rail Manila Corp.

The company had been regularly paying concession fees to the government, spokesperson Jacqueline Gorospe said in a Viber message on Wednesday. “We offset our claims with the concession fees due, which is an allowed formula in our concession agreement,” she said.

The LRT 1 Cavite extension project is a P64.9-billion public-private partnership venture that the National Economic and Development Authority board approved in Nov. 2013. It seeks to extend the existing rail network by 11.7 kilometers by adding eight stations from Baclaran to Bacoor, Cavite.

The 32-year concession contract was awarded to Light Rail Manila, a joint venture of Ayala Corp., Metro Pacific Light Rail Corp. and Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) Pte. Ltd.

Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which owns Metro Pacific Light Rail, is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd. The others are 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, which it controls.