Train check | Inquirer Business

Train check

“It will be chaotic; it will be an operational and technical nightmare.”

Those were the words—or words to that effect—coming from Mel Robles, former administrator of the state-run Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), which he told some news people in a forum organized by the Catholic Media Network (CMN) last week, apparently in an effort to check on an important project for the hapless commuters of Metro Manila—the MRT Edsa common station near North Avenue.


Robles actually referred to the decision of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) boss, Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, all of a sudden just to transfer the proposed P1.4-billion MRT Edsa common station from SM North mall (owned by taipan Henry Sy) to the Trinoma mall (owned by the Ayala group).

Robles also noted that the location at Trinoma would disrupt operations of the MRT Edsa line and impair the flow of traffic on Edsa, which was, is and will always be the main road in the entire metropolis.


Having served the longest as LRTA administrator from 2004 to 2010, Robles signed the “memorandum of agreement,” or MOA, with SM Prime Holdings Inc., which immediately paid the LRTA some P200 million for the naming rights and the location of the common station.

As we all know, SM Prime recently sued the LRTA and the DOTC over the MOA it signed with the government some five years ago in 2009, specifying the location of the common station at SM North.

SM Prime legal counsel Ryan San Juan insisted that the MOA entered into with DOTC and LRTA in September of 2009 was valid and legally binding, in reaction to the decision of a lower court in Pasay City to deny its petition for an injunction against the move of Abaya to transfer the common station.

For one, according to Robles, if the DOTC would insist on transferring the common station to the Trinoma Mall, it would have to stop operations of MRT Edsa completely between the North Avenue and Shaw Boulevard—for at least 45 days.

To add to the injury, while MRT Edsa commuters must settle for bus rides or shuttle service, construction of the common station right in front of Trinoma mall on Edsa would necessitate the closure of several lanes of the thoroughfare.

Moreover, according to Robles, the government already invested a lot of time and money on the preparation of the common station site at the SM North, taking care to avoid the disruption of MRT Edsa operations and the traffic flow on Edsa.

Indeed, the common station project already earned the nod—officially—of the Cabinet-level Investment Coordinating Council led by the National Economic and Development Authority, way back in 2007 as part of the national government medium-term economic plan.


Thus, the government already did some steel and concrete piling in the area, but all of a sudden, during the term of our leader Benigno Simeon (a.k.a. BS), the government stopped the construction of the station.

Moreover, the DOTC chose to delay the acquisition of more MRT cars to serve the growing number of riders of the Edsa line that served some 700,000 riders a day.

Besides, according to Robles, the main idea in having the “common” station was really to interconnect the three lines: LRT Taft, MRT Edsa and the forthcoming MRT Line 7 (San Jose Del Monte-Commonwealth), a project of the cash-rich San Miguel group.

In the DOTC-inspired location at Trinoma, however, the MRT Line 7 would be so far away that the riders would have to walk some 500 to 600 meters to move from one train line to another.

So much for “common” station!


Lawyer Jose Miguel Palarca, who said he was the counsel of former House Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella, answered our item last June 3, titled “Piece of mines,” which exposed illegal mining activities in areas of Camarines Sur that were declared as eco-tourism zones:

“The column was about the gruesome and senseless massacre in Barangay Gata, Caramoan, last March 22, 2013, which claimed the lives of Jesse Brondia, Salem Virtuz, Julio Labiano and Rene Labiano. (No, it was not; it was about illegal mining and police partiality. I never talked about the murder cases.)

“The claims in your column are very far from the truth. On May 22, 2014, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) came out with a report depicting Sagip Kalikasan men as the persons responsible for the murder of the Gata Four. The Sagip Kalikasan men identified in the report have been charged by the police. Sagip Kalikasan directly reports to Gov. Migz Villafuerte.

“On June 9, 2014, the National Police Commission (Napolcom) issued a resolution removing the deputation of [Villafuerte] as Napolcom deputy for the province of Camarines Sur. This came about due to his refusal to cooperate with police authorities and his coddling of Sagip Kalikasan men involved in the Gata Four massacre.

“The CHR report likewise stated that Sagip Kalikasan engages in illegal mining activities. Emily Alvarez Sta. Ana, owner of a property located in Barangay Gata, Caramoan, Camarines Sur, in a letter to [Villafuerte] dated Dec. 29, 2013, appealed for help because Sagip Kalikasan men armed to the teeth with long firearms forcibly entered her property and took over the same. They then brought in big balls and undertook mining operations. [Villafuerte] merely dismissed her report and appeal for help as “malicious.”

“Indeed, the Villafuertes are in hot water for their incessant disregard for the processes of law. The blatant abuse of the governor’s powers is finally catching up on them. Instead of facing the issue squarely, they resort to publicity stunts to divert attention from themselves with no other purpose but to defame and destroy the good name of their perceived political nemesis.”

(It still did not challenge the existence of wholesale illegal mining activities in supposedly mining-banned areas in the province, as declared by law and a presidential executive order, which has been booming with tourism income.

About the murder cases, two eyewitnesses actually implicated two persons in the killings before the provincial prosecution office, but it was found out that the witnesses did not see who fired the shots that killed the four poor victims. The finding of probable cause for murder was made against the two alleged gunmen, plus certain members of the Sagip Kalikasan team, and several other John Does. The police eventually released several of the arrested personnel, because the supposed eyewitnesses never really identified them.

It is called illegal detention in law, I think. And no case was ever filed against the police. No wonder, Napolcom punished the provincial governor, because the police arrested several provincial personnel.

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