Court decision paves way for MRT-7 depot construction

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    In full swing. MRT-7 is scheduled to begin partial operations in 2021.
    In full swing. MRT-7 is scheduled to begin partial operations in 2021.

    Metro Rail Transit line 7 (MRT-7) is still on track to start partial operations by 2021, following the recent court decision that allows it to start the construction of the 20-hectare depot in Quezon City, according to the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

    In a statement, the DOTr said construction works on the depot formally started yesterday after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) Branches 92 and 98 issued Writs of Possession in favor of the agency and its concessionaire SMC Mass Rail Transit 7 Inc. (SMRT7).

    A writ of possession is a writ of execution employed to enforce a judgment to recover the possession of land. It commands the sheriff to enter the land and give its possession to the party entitled under the judgment.

    Branch 92 Sheriff Francisco Emmanuel San Andres and Branch 98 Sheriff Bienvenido Reyes Jr. enforced the writs together with a contingent of Philippine National Police and Special Weapons and Tactics personnel led by Station 5 (Fairview) Commander Col. Jeffrey Bilaro.

    Also present were Timothy John Batan, DOTr undersecretary for railways, and Giovanni Lopez, assistant secretary for procurement and project implementation and right-of-way acquisition committee chairman.

    Pursuant to Republic Act No. 10752 or the new Right-of-Way Act, the DOTr offered to buy the depot site from its owners, largely comprising of a major real estate development company, at current market value, as appraised by a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas accredited independent property appraiser.

    However, the property owners refused the DOTr’s current market value offer, forcing the agency and SMRT7, in coordination with the Office of the Solicitor General, to file expropriation cases last November 15.

    On November 22 and November 25, Writs of Possession in favor of the DOTr and SMRT7 were issued by the QC RTC Branches 92 and 98.

    The DOTr and SMRT7 identified the new depot site along Quirino Highway in Barangay Lagro, Quezon City as optimal for right-of-way implementability, asset constructibility, capital expenditure and operational expense efficiency, and operational reliability and maintainability.

    Arthur Tugade, DOTr secretary, approved the depot site during his inspection on June 29, 2019.

    “The start of depot works signifies much more than a dot in the timeline of the project. It shows us that when the judiciary work hand in hand with the executive department, we are able to pick up speed in delivering infrastructure development to the Filipino people,” Tugade said.

    MRT-7 is scheduled to begin partial operations in 2021 with the opening of the stations from North Avenue to Regalado, while full completion is targeted in 2022.

    As of October 2019, the MRT-7 project is 49.15 percent complete, according to the DOTr.

    MRT-7 is a 23-kilometer railway with 13 stations that will connect San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan with North Avenue, Quezon City in about 34 minutes.

    Once operational, the line is expected to ferry between 300,000 to 850,000 passengers per day, with room for capacity expansion to accommodate future increases in ridership. It will be connected to the Light Rail Transit-1, MRT-3 and the Metro Manila Subway at the Common Station in North Avenue.