DOTr: Belated MRT-7 revisions needed
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - February 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The belated revisions on the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) is a balance between the need to update infrastructure and the project proponent’s need for a return on its investment, an official of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said yesterday.

“We have to balance everything, but rest assured we will not allow any fare hike or an increase in government amortization (as soon as the project is finished),” Undersecretary Timothy John Batan told congressmen in a hearing on the issue yesterday.  

His remarks were made in light of reports that San Miguel Corp., the project proponent, expanded the Quezon Memorial Circle (QMC) station to build a “mall” in the guise of “underbuilding” to prevent the establishment of a limited space when the number of passengers has ballooned since the project was approved in 2008. 

Earlier this month, Mayor Joy Belmonte issued a temporary cease and desist order on the above-ground construction of the QMC station and ordered a review of the project after discovering it greatly exceeded the agreed area for construction and encroached on the heritage site.

Batan explained to the transportation committee of the House of Representatives, headed by Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, that investors like SMC expect a return of investment from fares, government amortization and “commercial properties like kiosks.”  

 Sarmiento, a civil engineer by profession, advised Batan to follow the examples of other countries where “parks are preserved.”

“You can’t change the structure at the middle of the ballgame. It should fall under international standards,” the lawmaker said. 

Batan said that since MRT-7’s inception in 2002, the “concession agreement” signed in 2008, and construction started in 2016, there is a need to “upgrade” the passenger capacity.

 He acknowledged there was a “redesign” of the MRT-7’s QMC station and admitted that Belmonte’s concerns on the issue of structural integrity and the like were “legitimate.”

He said city officials and SMC will have another meeting tomorrow to discuss the project. 

The MRT-7 - which costs P75 billion - will runs from SM North EDSA to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan is expected to be finished by 2022. It is 52 percent finished and will have “partial operability” by December 2021, the DOTr said.    

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