MANILLA – It took almost a decade, but a project meant to make it easier for riders of mass transport systems to get to more points more quickly has finally broken ground, and is expected to be completed in 2019.
The common station, or more particularly, what is called the Unified Grand Central Station will link MRT 3, LRT 1, the still-being-constructed MRT 7, and the planned first
Metro Manila Subway.
The project had been entangled in lengthy disputes that even reached courts, but the Duterte administration and the key businessmen involved finally reached agreement on the common station. It will rise between two big malls in Quezon City, Trinoma and SM North.
The 3-storey structure will have a total of 13,700 square meters and is envisioned to make it quick and easy for riders to switch from one train line to another.
Residents of Cavite province south of Metro Manila are seen to be among the big beneficiaries of the project.
According to Rogelio Singson, president of the LRT 1 operator Light Rail Manila Corp. (LRMC), “when this is completed, people from the common station can go all the way to Baclaran in less than 1 hour — 45 to 50 minutes. And when we finish the Cavite extension, people from Cavite can travel all the way to the common station in a little over one hour. And I don’t think they can do that [with] any other mode of transport.”
The common station was first broached in 2006, and was suppposed to rise adjacent to SM Annex on North Avenue, Quezon City.
Despite the deal having been forged, the previous administration decided to change plans, saying it would be cheaper to put up the station on the Ayala-owned Trinoma Mall.
The dispute reached the Supreme Court, because when government changed its mind, SM had already paid government P200 million for the right to have the common station named after them.
In 2016, the new administration forged a compromise with the business groups involved, just to break the deadlock and get the project going
“Ang unang unang dapat pasalamatan ay ‘yung mga pribadong kumpanya na kung saan, itinabi nila ang kanilang mga interes pangkumpanya upang makiisa sa bayan [The first people who deserve our gratitude are the private companies that set aside their respective interests just to serve the public],” said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade at the groundbreaking Friday morning.
According to the militant group BAYAN, however, taxpayers are at the losing end here because the original cost of P700 million has tripled.
The commuters were not consulted about it, said BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.
“Taxpayers gave a virtual subsidy of P2.8 billion for the sake of big business. Secretary Tugade is just pursuing the plans of the Aquino-era DOTC head [Joseph Emilion] Abaya. This common station should indeed be set up, but at least cost and free from the dictates of big business. Mr. Tugade said they consulted the ‘people who mattered’. Yes, they consulted everyone except the commuters and taxpayers. We don’t matter to them,” added Reyes, speaking mostly in Filipino.
Tugade for his part explained the bigger cost: The space is much bigger, he said, and the decade’s delay had meant higher cost of materials. “Yung cost ng mga materyales mo noong isang dekada, magiging kapareho ba yun? Hindi.”
The project will be completed in 2019, and at the start of 2020, at least half a million people are expected to be able to use the common station.
WATCH NEWS5’S VIDEO ON THE GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY FOR THE MRT-3 COMMON STATION: