With only one more working day before the year ends, the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) Cavite Extension—the project that President Benigno Aquino III promised to be completed in 2015 else he would have himself and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya run over by a train—is still far from completion.
"There are no new developments for the LRT-1 Cavite Extension Project as the notice to proceed hasn't yet been given to LRMC (Light Rail Manila Corp.) by DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications)," the LRT private concessionaire, through its public relations agency, said in a text message to GMA News Online.
Sought for comment, Communications Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma said that Aquino's "statement (in 2013 should) not be taken literally."
"The President was speaking with a sense of urgency when he announced his desire to see the project 'within two years'," Coloma said.
"Any reasonable person would understand this to have been an aspirational statement. Despite the delays, the government continues to pursue the project," he added.
To recall, Aquino said he, along with DOTC Secretary Emilio Joseph "Jun" Abaya, was willing to be run over by a train if the project does not materialize by 2015.
"Pagdating naman ng 2015, hindi lang natin mapapabilis ang biyahe mula Baclaran hanggang Bacoor kundi madadagdagan din tayo ng tinatayong 250,000 na pasahero ang maisasakay kada araw dahil sa LRT Line 1 extension. At pag hindi ho nangyari ito, nandiyan po si Secretary Abaya na mangangasiwa ng proyektong to, dalawa na kaming magpapasagasa siguro sa tren," Aquino said in jest during in a campaign sortie of his senatorial slate in April 2013.
"If I haven't ridden on it by 2015, I will be severely disappointed," Aquino also said in 2012.
Abaya earlier said that the delays were caused by the failure in the project's bidding process under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Program.
"When the president made that announcement we were still leading up to the bid. No one plans for a failure of bid. We were highly guarding the passenger side, no one showed up at the day of bidding," he said in July.
Abaya said the start of the construction of the project is expected within the first half of 2016.
"Again, this is a PPP project. They are talking to their creditors, they are doing financial close... but I know its 2016 -- either first or second quarter," he said.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, chaired by Aquino, agreed in 2012 to bid out the LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension and Operation & Maintenance project under the PPP Program.
Under the agreement, LRMC will manage the LRT-1 for 32 years, during which it will also extend the line by 11.7 kilometers to 32.4 km from the current 20.7 k.m.
"The private partner will undertake the design, construction, and financing of the Cavite Extension as well as the operation and maintenance of the integrated system upon completion of the project," the PPP Center said in its website.
"The extension will serve future high-growth centers in the south like Cavite," the LRMC said through a disclosure of its parent company Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) in September.
The extension is expected to increase passenger capacity from the current 500,000, LRMC noted. —NB, GMA News