MRT-7 project clears key hurdle
By Arjay L. Balinbin
THE METRO RAIL TRANSIT Line 7 (MRT-7 — a flagship project of the government — has overcome a major right-of-way obstacle that had forced proponent San Miguel Corp. to stretch completion timetable by two years to 2022, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte ends his six-year term.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Transportation (DoTR) said two Quezon City courts issued orders for the government to take possession of a site eyed for the project’s planned depot in San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan.
The government had questioned a higher valuation for acquisition of the site from its owner that was mandated by Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 11 in February last year, compared to what it argued is allowed by law. San Miguel had said in July 2018 that valuation discrepancy would increase its required deposit for the project nearly ninefold to P598.905 million from P67.105 million.
“Work on the depot formally started yesterday, 26 November 2019… after writs of possession issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 92 and 98 in favor of the Department of Transportation and its concessionaire, SMC Mass Rail Transit 7, Inc. (SMRT7), were successfully enforced by sheriffs of the two courts,” the department said in a statement on Wednesday, referring to San Miguel’s rail unit.
The department said that the Quezon City courts issued the writs on Nov. 22 and 25 after “nearly two years” of court hearings on the matter.
The unsolicited proposal for the project was submitted “17 years” ago, it added.
San Miguel shares gained 0.63% to P160 apiece at closing on Wednesday, riding a general rise at the Philippine Stock Exchange.
In a mobile phone message, Transport Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Oliveros-Libiran said that the courts’ decision removes the “major stumbling block” to the project.
“This development will allow us to finally start works at the depot. The depot is an integral part of any rail station, so now that the location has finally been settled, we are confident that the project construction will now push through without major stumbling blocks,” Ms. Oliveros-Libiran said in her reply.
DoTR’s statement quoted Transport Secretary Arthur P. Tugade as saying: “The start of depot works signifies much more than a dot in the timeline of the project. It shows us that when the judiciary work hand in hand with the executive department, we are able to pick up speed in delivering infrastructure development to the Filipino people.”
The P62.7-billion MRT-7 project — which will run between North Avenue in Quezon City and San Jose del Monte city, Bulacan — has three components, namely: a 23-kilometer rail transit system with 14 stations; a six-lane highway between North Luzon Expressway and a planned Intermodal Transportation Terminal (ITT); and the ITT itself that can accommodate 200 buses at a time.
The Public-Private Partnership Center said on its Web site that the road component of the project will “divert northern provincial bus operations to San Jose Del Monte, thereby decongesting EDSA.”
Once operational, the new railway is expected to accommodate an estimated 300,000-850,000 passengers a day, the DoTr said.
The DoTr also said MRT 7 will be connected to MRT-3, Light Rail Transit Line 1 and the Metro Manila Subway at the Common Station along North Avenue in Quezon City.
“As of October 2019, the MRT-7 project is 49.15% complete. It is scheduled to begin partial operations in 2021,” it added.