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Common railway station row resolved

Location between SM North Edsa and Ayala’s Trinoma
/ 12:24 AM August 13, 2016

A protracted common railway station row that erupted between a big mall developer and the transportation department under President Aquino has finally been resolved, a senior government official said Friday.

“I think by the end of this month, we will sign a memorandum of agreement,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said during a business forum organized by Colliers International.

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The issue, which grew complex because of the number of private sector interests involved, centered on where a train station that will link the busy Metro Rail Transit Line 3 and the Light Rail Transit Line 1 in Quezon City would be located. LRT-1 and MRT-3 serve close to a million passengers a day.

Tugade did not specify the station’s exact location, but said it would be “in between” the SM North Edsa and Trinoma shopping malls operated by SM Prime Holdings Inc. and Ayala Land Inc., respectively.

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Apart from both developers, also affected by the issue were Light Rail Manila Corp., a venture between Ayala and Manuel V. Pangilinan’s group that operates LRT-1, and San Miguel Corp., which is building the MRT-7 linking Quezon City to Bulacan that would eventually connect to the common station.

“It will be in the middle so passengers would not have to walk far,” Tugade added.

Pressed for more details, Tugade said he could not say more since an agreement was not yet signed. The transport chief added that he was wary about certain “relationship provisions” between the signing parties. Company officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

The row stemmed from a 2014 decision of the transportation department, then headed by Secretary Joseph Abaya, to move the station’s location from the SM City North Edsa Annex to an area near Trinoma. Abaya argued this was cheaper to build by about P1 billion.

The station was originally meant to be located near SM’s property, based on an agreement SM Prime had with the Light Rail Transit Authority in 2009, or during the term of President Arroyo. SM Prime promptly sued the department in 2014 for breach of contract, while scoring the government for its unilateral decision.

Meanwhile, the construction of the new station could not proceed since the Supreme Court ordered a temporary restraining order on its transfer.

Compromise talks were initiated by Abaya, but a resolution was never reached until President Aquino stepped down last June. At one point, Abaya had suggested building two common stations—one each to be located near SM North Edsa and Trinoma—to urge SM to withdraw its lawsuit.

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The two-station plan was eventually abandoned as private sector stakeholders said it would inconvenience commuters.

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