House leaders: New LRT-MRT hub too costly, benefits private companies more

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Leaders of the House of Representatives are opposing the proposed new common station for the MRT-3, MRT-7 and LRT-1, a week after a memorandum of agreement to build the station was signed.

Read: Common station linking MRT, LRT to be built this year

In a Wednesday hearing of the House Committee on Transportation, some lawmakers said they believe the common station, which will be put up in Quezon City between SM North EDSA and TriNoma, is designed to serve the interest of private companies.

"Yung 'win-win' niyo is 'win-win' between SM and Trinoma," House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said. "Paano papasok yung equation ng riding public? Eh mas malayo sa kanila 'yun."

[Translation: Your "win-win" solution is a "win-win" between SM and TriNoma. How does the riding public enter the equation? The station's location is further for them.]

Alvarez also said the new common station will force commuters to walk far just to transfer from LRT-1 or MRT-3 to MRT-7 or vice versa. 

In the proposed design, the LRT-1 and MRT-3 lines will be located along EDSA, while the MRT-7 line will be along North Avenue.

There are two walkways connecting the LRT-1/MRT-3 lines to the MRT-7. The walkway near SM North Edsa is 48 meters long, while the walkway near TriNoma is 170 meters long.

Alvarez said the common station, which will cost the government ₱2.8 billion, is too expensive.

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said the lower House had already made a proposal in 2009 for a common station that is cheaper and is expected to benefit commuters better.

Based on the 2009 proposal, the common station of all three lines would be located in front of SM North EDSA Annex.

Suarez argued that unlike the present common station design, the lower House's proposal would no longer require commuters to walk far just to transfer from one line to another.

"You just move from one floor up or one floor down, or you move from the left to the right," Suarez explained.

Suarez added the 2009 proposal would cost only ₱700 million, with ₱200 million shouldered by SM as payment for the naming rights. 

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) defended the higher cost and the location of the common station.

"The choice of where to locate the new common station was actually a product of number one, technical consideration and  number two, convenience on the party of the passengers," said DOTr Undersecretary for Legal and Procurement Raoul Creencia.

He also said the cost went up because of inflation and also because the current design is almost double the size of the 2009 design.

Alvarez, however, did not buy DoTr's explanation.

"'Wag na tayo maglokohan. We're wasting our time," Alvarez answered. "Yung technical-technical niyo, that is a justification sa gusto niyo mangyari. What we want is comfort and convenience of the passengers."

[Translation: Let's not kid ourselves. We're wasting our time. All your technical considerations are justifications for what you want to happen.]

Kabayan Party-list Representative Harry Roque meanwhile said the signing of the memorandum of agreement on the common station may constitute graft.

"The mere signing of MOA is criminal already given that it is very clear it accords undue advantage to a private company at the expense of public interest," Roque explained.

The congressman said the House minority bloc is planning to question the memorandum of agreement before the court.