SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez has called on the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to fast-track the building of the Light Railway Transit (LRT) – Metro Railway Transit (MRT) common station and to consider public welfare as its priority for the project.
The Speaker issued the call during the resumption of the hearing by the committee on transportation chaired by Rep. Cesar V. Sarmiento (Lone District, Catanduanes) on the common station project that will link LRT 1, MRT 3 and the forthcoming MRT 7.
“Masyado nang mahaba ang panahon na ginugol natin dito. Marami nang pagdinig na ginawa, even during the 14thCongress at na-establish na rin kung saan dapat yung common station, in the interest of the public,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez said it was high time for the government to identify where the common station should be since funding for the project will come from the government, using the budget allocated by Congress.
“Let those who want to question the government to do it in the proper venue,” said the Speaker.
“I’m sure bawal mag-TRO sa government projects. Ngayon, kung may mag-file ng contempt, eh di i-contempt nila yung gobyerno. Pero hindi dapat naaantala ang proyekto ng gobyerno dahil lang meron tayong ibang interes na sine-serve. Dapat isasaalang-alang natin yung interes ng riding public na gumagamit ng pasilidad,” Alvarez said.
The Speaker asked DOTr officials “to start building, with or without a TRO, the common station that is in the interest of the riding public.”
“Nagkaroon na dito ng pandinig yung House of Representatives at na-identify na kung saan yung common station. Yun ang gusto naming makita na gawin ng gobyerno dahil nag-allocate na tayo ng budget para diyan. Hindi yung kung saang station yan,” Alvarez stressed. He reminded the DOTr officials that Congress can always exercise its oversight function.
The January 18, 2017 memorandum of agreement (MOA) entered into for the common station was, according to several members of the committee, mired with anomalous and questionable provisions which can put the government at the losing end.
Rep. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate (Party-list, Bayan Muna) earlier filed House Resolution 470, directing the committee to probe the DOTr’s decision to enter into a MOA and adopt former DOTC Secretary Emilio Abaya’s proposed compromise station between SM and Trinoma. Zarate said the decision was an apparent attempt to appease competing business interests.
“Gaya ng tanong ni Speaker, kaninong interes ba talaga itong compromise agreement na ito? Is this for the interest of our riding public or is this just to accommodate the interest of these two giant malls, P2.8 billion is such a huge amount,” said Zarate.
Committee vice-chairperson Rep. Jesulito A. Manalo (Party-list, Angkla) and Rep. Vincent P. Crisologo (1st District, Quezon City) advised the DOTr that in negotiating with the private sector, the concessions should always be in favor of the government and the paying public, and not the other way around.
Rep. Manuel Luis T. Lopez (1st District, Manila) put forward a motion which directed the DOTr to review the MOA further, especially those provisions which put the public and the government at a disadvantageous position. He also asked the DOTr to submit its findings in seven days.
Lopez noted that during a hearing of the committee on Metro Manila development prior to the MOA signing, the lawmakers requested the DOTr to temporarily hold the signing prior to a House review of the agreement. Such plea, however, was ignored according to him.
Lopez further said both the House committees on transportation and on Metro Manila development should have proper representation during the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) review of the proposed common terminal to ensure a thorough assessment of the project.
Deputy Speaker and Cebu Third District Rep. Gwendolyn F. Garcia offered to submit a list of important things that the DOTr might be able to use in its review, as she noted there are several questionable provisions in the ‘’seemingly hastily signed MOA.’’
Meanwhile, the Speaker expressed concern over the appointment of former Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson as Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He advised Singson to ensure the appointment does not violate the one-year prohibition clause in Republic Act 6713 or the ‘’Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.’’ Rep. Jose L. Atienza, Jr. (Party-list, Buhay) during the interpellation of Singson also shared the Speaker’s concern.
Singson assured the Speaker and the committee that before accepting the LRMC job, he consulted the Civil Service Commission (CSC) on the matter and got a favorable response.
Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte First District Rodolfo C. Fariñas said the interpretation of the law is lodged not with the CSC, but the committee on rules of both the Senate and the House. He then advised Singson to seek the opinion of the rules committee.
Singson assured the committee that if there will be a problem with his appointment, he would willingly resign.
On a positive note, DOTr Assistant Secretary for Rail Cesar Chavez reported to the committee that the south and north railway projects, to be done through public-private-partnership (PPP), were already approved and will be undertaken through Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the governments of China and Japan, respectively. The committee welcomed the positive development. / CM