Abaya’s fastbreaks on 3 train lines
What’s the matter with Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya? Did he think he can get away with his attempted fastbreaks on the MRT and LRT?
The almost-double increases on the fares for the elevated trains were announced during the holidays, perhaps with the idea that the people would neither notice nor mind because they were absorbed in the Christmas-New Year cheer. On the first working day of 2015, commuters were slapped with the higher fares. They were not given enough time or opportunity to contest the fare increases. Abaya probably thought that if the workers and students were met with a done deal when they woke up after the New Year’s Eve hangover, there would be little protests. Abaya thought wrong.
The Department of Transportation and Communications also misled the Senate; it did not inform the lawmakers that there would be fare increases when it was granted an additional budget for the rehabilitation of MRT3. With the additional budget, the DOTC would no longer need the funds from the fare increases. So why is it insisting on the increases? Because the additional budget can then be treated as another pork barrel, to be spent in any way Abaya, who is president of the ruling Liberal Party, wants to spend it.
As if that were not enough, Abaya sprang his third surprise: To ward off defeat in the case of the common train station on North Avenue, Quezon City, he announced that there would be two common stations there as a compromise.
SM North Edsa and Trinoma are fighting over the common station as it would greatly benefit either of them. Locating the common station at SM has been approved by the National Economic and Development Authority. SM has paid P200 million, and the construction of the station has started.
When the DOTC bid out the LRT line from Cavite to Baclaran, the common station was suddenly included in the deal, and it was located in front of Trinoma although it is six cities away from the end of that line. Is that not preposterous, if not anomalous? A station for the line located six cities away?
Some people suspect it was done so that Ayala Corp. would bid for the project as it would benefit its Trinoma and steal customers from its neighbor and rival SM. There were no bidders during the first bidding for the project, so Abaya must have been desperate for bidders.
It will be recalled that Ayala joined the consortium to construct the MRT3 line on Edsa. When the line reached the exclusive Ayala villages in Makati, the line suddenly went underground so that the passing trains would not disturb the rich residents.
The area on North Avenue that was supposed to be the depot and repair yard of MRT3 suddenly became the site of Trinoma and the business center that is now being built by Ayala around it. All of that done, Ayala then withdrew from the MRT3 consortium.
That area is public land, owned by the National Housing Authority now under the supervision of Vice President Jejomar Binay. It is not known how Ayala acquired the rights to develop the area. To acquire rights to public land, the law requires a public bidding. I do not remember any public bidding for that piece of land.
If it was an unsolicited proposal from Ayala, the law requires a Swiss challenge from other developers. I do not remember any Swiss challenge from any other developer. Question: Is the award to Ayala of the rights to develop the land legal and aboveboard?
Going back to the common station, Abaya said relocating the common station in front of Trinoma would be economical for the DOTC. The common station would link three train lines: LRT1, MRT3, and MRT7, which would run from North Avenue through Commonwealth Avenue to Bulacan and which San Miguel Corp. would construct.
SM went to court to stop the relocation of the common station in front of Trinoma as it, SM, already has the right and contract to locate the station in front of SM North Edsa.
It looks like the DOTC and Trinoma will lose the case, so Abaya is now floating a compromise: constructing two stations, one in front of Trinoma and the other in front of SM. But how can that be less expensive when two stations would be built instead of only one? Besides, that would pose difficulties to commuters transferring from one train to another.
The common station was planned for all three lines to meet so that commuters can transfer from one train to another without difficulty. With two stations, commuters will have to walk from SM to Trinoma and vice versa (which would be quite a long walk, especially if one is carrying heavy and bulky baggage) in order to transfer from one train line to another).
Abaya’s proposal for a “dual station” is obviously to favor Ayala. Why? I don’t know, but you can guess.
It will also be recalled that when the DOTC was trying to take over the MRT3 line from the privately-owned MRT Holdings, the latter filed a case with the Singapore arbitration court. It also looks like the DOTC is going to lose that case, so two government banks were ordered to buy shares of stocks of MRT Holdings to complete the government takeover.
Incidentally, press releases that MRT3 is being operated by a private company are wrong. It is at present being operated by the DOTC. The rolling stock is owned by MRT Holdings, but the DOTC is operating it. Which is probably why the trains and rails have deteriorated so much as to pose danger to the riding public.
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