THE SUPREME COURT (SC) has ordered a Pasay City court to resolve a dispute involving the construction of a common train station that would connect separate rail systems in front of the Trinoma mall, which was originally supposed to be in front of the SM North EDSA mall.
Its order to the Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 111 involved SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (SMPHI) and entities handling the rail systems — Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA).
In a resolution dated March 15 and made public on Oct. 26, the tribunal lifted an injunction on the station’s construction but said that doing so was moot since SMPHI had reported that the station’s construction had started.
“This is a judicial admission that is binding upon SMPHl, without need for further proof. At any rate, the aforesaid admission of SMPHI itself renders the present petition for injunction moot,” the tribunal said.
“Here, further proceedings would be of no practical value because there is no longer any substantial relief to which SMPHI would be entitled and or would otherwise be negated by the denial of the petition.”
In a 2017 agreement, SMPHI, the LRTA, and the Department of Transportation (DoTR) agreed to compromise on a common station plan acceptable to all parties, after the High Court told them to do so.
The tribunal said the parties have yet to finalize or implement the plan for the common station.
The entities had agreed to “facilitate the immediate development, construction, and operation of a Unified Station/Grand Central Station.”
“While judicial policy strongly encourages compromise, the court cannot allow the supposed negotiations to indefinitely stay hanging in the air and continue to clog the docket of the court, without any clear showing that it would ever come to fruition,” the High Court said.
In 2009, SMPHI and the LRTA signed a deal that involved SMPHI agreeing to help finance a common station that would be built in front of SM North EDSA by earmarking P200 million for its construction. Funding was delivered to the LRTA that same year.
Under the agreement, SMPHI was granted naming rights over the common station.
Two years later, the LRTA and the DoTR, formerly known as the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), signed a separate agreement assigning the latter as the lead implementing agency for the project.
SMPH argued that the LRTA and the DoTC suddenly stopped the station’s construction and complained that it had not been informed of plans to change the construction site to Trinoma, which the DoTC confirmed in a 2014 bulletin.
SMPHI had asked a Pasay City regional trial court to implement a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the station’s construction in the new site in front of Trinoma, which the court denied.
That same year, the firm asked the Supreme Court to grant its plea for a TRO, saying that not even the government can violate a valid contract and that the P200 million it had delivered to the LRTA should have been used for a common station in its original location.
The SC granted the petition for an injunction, halting the transfer of the common station.
The DoTC argued that the transfer of the common station’s location was “made for the best interest of the public,” claiming that the transfer would save the government P1.22 billion since the Trinoma location was more convenient.
“Considering the parties’ protracted negotiations, and the absence of even a faint showing that the parties are attempting to comply with the supposed conditions precedent… the court could only conclude… they are no longer minded coming to any compromise agreement which would write finish to their 9-year-old case,” the High Court said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez