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Creep a secret

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Creep a secret

/ 02:36 AM April 06, 2015

ONE MORE time with feelings, the familiar specter of years and years of delay could be expected from the tricky “concession agreement” on the already much delayed LRT-1 “extension” project.

The horrific “concession agreement” could only creep out a group of supposedly concerned citizens, although I know they were part of militant sectors, forcing them to file a case before the Supreme Court, seeking to nullify the “concession agreement” because it was allegedly disadvantageous to the government—meaning, just the Aquino (Part II) administration.

How long the case would languished in the Supreme Court, would be hard to say, although the Supreme Court did not give any indication that it would stop the project at least until a ruling is made.

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In other words, tuloy and ligaya!

Involved in the thick 214-page controversial “concession agreement” was, of course, the similarly notorious DOTC, or the Department of Transportation and Communications, supposedly headed by Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

It supposedly covered the P70-billion extension of the existing LRT Line 1 (Baclaran-Monumento-North Ave.) all the way to the fast urbanizing Bacoor in Cavite, stretching some 12 kilometers.

The extension was hailed as the biggest project of the Aquino (Part II) administration under its banner program called PPP to be done by a private group known as the LRMC, or the Light Rail Manila Corp.

Precisely because the administration built up the project almost as the ultimate salvation of the Filipino people, our leader, Benigno Simeon (aka BS), at one time even declared that it would be finished by 2015.

By the way, our dear leader, BS, reportedly also promised to have himself run over by the train if the LRT-1 extension would not be done by 2015.

That would be less than nine months from today.

Anyway, the controversy-infested DOTC took its sweet time to finish the “concession agreement,” owing to some “fine tuning” in it, according to our beloved Abaya.

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In those two years, reports indicated an ever-increasing cost of the project, starting at P60 billion in 2013, to P65 billion, until current estimates put it at P70 billion.

With the completion of the project expected in 2019, or more than four years from today, the actual cost could still go up there somewhere in the vicinity of planet Mars.

The DOTC kept the “concession agreement” a top secret in the past two years, without a single provision leaking out to the hundreds of thousands of commuters using the LRT system.

Details of the “concession agreement” started to seep out from various sources in the government to media outfits and militant groups, only when in another of its boldfaced move, the DOTC declared a huge fare increase for all light rail systems.

As it turned out, when the DOTC unilaterally raised the fare early this year, it was the “concession agreement” that actually obligated the Aquino (Part II) administration to implement the increase. You know—for and in behalf of the private group.

That private group happened to be the LRMC, owned by the Metro Pacific group of Manuel V. Pangilinan, the Ayala group and foreign investment firm Macquarie group.

The case before the Supreme Court reportedly talked about the lopsidedness of the once top-secret agreement between the DOTC and LRMC, in favor of the private group of course.

As we all know, except perhaps some clueless guy in the Palace, the LRMC was the lone bidder in the much-delayed bidding of the extension project held by the DOTC itself.

In the beginning, several other groups like San Miguel Corp. expressed interest in joining the bidding, but they all withdrew because the DOTC terms in the agreement were even more horrible and ugly than the MRT Edsa line service.

And so the DOTC declared the lone bidder, none other than LRMC, the winner.

The two sides then wrote down the terms of the “concession agreement” just by their lonesome selves, keeping it all a top secret.

You know, away from the prying eyes of the commuters who must foot the bill of the extension project for the next 32 years which, by the way under the top secret “concession agreement,” could be lengthened to 50 years.

First question: Why did the DOTC take over the project, when it was the LRT Authority that had the legal mandate, under its charter, to oversee all the business involving the LRT-1?

Second question: Why did the DOTC give away the existing line, the LRT Baclaran-Monumento-North Ave line, for free?

Look, the line was worth some P21 billion in the LRTA books—well, conservatively worth. And yet the top secret “concession agreement” gave it zero value. Que horror, señor!

On top of the P21-billion book value, the LRT-1 at present enjoys a positive cash flow, posting an income of at least P7 million a day, or about P3 billion a year.

And that did not even include the punitive fare increase that the DOTC early this year imposed on the commuters, for and in behalf of the private group LRMC.

By the way, in the original plan of the Aquino (Part II) administration, way before the DOTC lorded over the process of bidding out the extension project, the term was that the concessionaire could raise the fare by 5 percent upon completion of the project.

Again, that was “upon completion of the project,” and the fare increase would have to be the concessionaire’s own look out.

Next question: Why did the DOTC give away the income of the LRT-1 to the private group even before LRMC could erect one single darn post along the extension line?

In other words, even before the LRMC could put a single peso into the project, it would be raking in million upon million of the income of the existing LRT-1.

Another question: Why did the DOTC not ask for any down payment for the concession?

Let us not even talk about the prohibitive cost of the project, as presented by the LRMC to the one and only DOTC under our beloved Abaya, which was put at P39 billion for the civil and electrical works, meaning the infrastructure on the streets. That would put the cost of the extension at more than P3.2 billion per kilometer.

In comparison, when the much-ridiculed cute administration of Gloriaetta constructed the LRT-1 extension on Edsa between Monumento and North Ave., the cost was put at only P1 billion per km.

And that was less than five years ago.

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TAGS: Business, economy, LRT 1 extension, News, Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya
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