Court issues TRO on railway station row
Henry Sy’s SM Group has won a temporary court order preventing the Department of Transportation and Communication from transferring a railway “common station” in Quezon City from SM City North Edsa to a location near Ayala Land Inc.’s TriNoma shopping mall, which SM Group claimed had violated a 2009 agreement.
The Supreme Court, in a decision on July 30 but released to the public Friday, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the DOTC and the Light Rail Transit Authority from pushing through with the transfer of the common station’s location. The high court further directed the DOTC and the LRTA to submit their comments within 10 days.
The development was the latest in an ongoing row between SM and the DOTC that has spilled over into other areas, including the P65-billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 Cavite extension public-private partnership (PPP) deal.
This particular common station, which aims to link the LRT-1 and Metro Rail Transit Line 3, and eventually MRT-7, would provide a boost to foot traffic to establishments connecting to it, making it desirable to property developers.
While not part of the LRT-1 PPP project, the TriNoma location for the common station was included in the railway deal, further complicating the issuance of a notice of award to sole bidder Light Rail Manila Consortium—backed by Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.—that was previously expected this week.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya admitted this Friday when he told reporters that an award would not happen yet partly because the government needed to further study the legal implications of SM’s suit.
“On the common station, we are getting the legal opinion from the OSG (Office of the Solicitor General),” said Abaya, noting that this opinion “gives us comfort” ahead of any award.
He said the DOTC would still proceed with the award possibly next week, given that the high court’s TRO involved only the common station’s location.
The station itself, estimated to cost about P1.4 billion for the TriNoma location, would be bid out separately and would be financed by the government.
It was also about P1 billion cheaper than the location near SM North Edsa because the original location had provisions for MRT-7, according to former LRTA chair Mel Robles, who signed the 2009 agreement with SM.
Jose Ma. Lim, president of Metro Pacific Investments, told reporters last week that they would still conduct a detailed review on which location was the cheapest and most efficient for their operations and for railway commuters.
Ayala Corp. managing director John Eric Francia, meanwhile, said in an e-mail yesterday that he did not expect further delays to the award but declined to comment on whether Ayala was open to the SM location.
The SM group, through property arm SM Prime Holdings Inc., welcomed the Supreme Court decision.
“SM Prime is not seeking to delay the LRT1-Cavite Extension project. Rather, we are merely asking that the DOTC/LRTA and/or the winning bidder [to] construct the common station component thereof in front of SM City North Edsa, in faithful compliance with the MOA (memorandum of agreement),” it said in a statement Friday.
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