By Lailany P. Gomez | Manila Standard Today | January 23, 2014

The Budget Department has approved a P56-billion budget for the equity buyout of Metro Rail Transit Corp., Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said Wednesday.

“The budget is okayed. The DBM has suggested P56 billion [for the buyout]. It is in the 2014 budget,” Abaya said.

He said the Transportation Department and the Bureau of the Treasury had met to finalize the takeover of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3.

“We did [met] with [National Treasurer] Rosalia de Leon. There are still small things left,” Abaya said, but did not elaborate.

Metro Pacific Investments Corp. controls 48 percent of MRTC, after signing a cooperation agreement with various groups that hold rights and interests in MRT 3, including Metro Rail Transit Holdings Inc., Metro Rail Transit 2 Inc. and Monumento Rail Transit Corp.

President Benigno Aquino III signed Executive Order 126 in February 2013 to authorize the implementation of the equity buyout of the MRTC.

The EO directed the Finance and Transportation Departments, Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines to proceed with the implementation of the equity buyout of MRTC pursuant to the build-lease-transfer agreement. LandBank and DBP hold a combined 80-percent economic interest in MRT 3.

The implementation of the buyout will include acquisition of either all outstanding shares of stock and other securities issued by MRTC and/or entities owning the MRT Line 3 Project (equity purchase) or all rights, title and interests of MRTC in the MRT Line 3 project (asset purchase) pursuant to the BLT agreement.

The EO also directed the execution of a compromise agreement between the government and MRTC and submission of the same to the arbitration committee in Singapore.

The President ordered the settlement of local tax liabilities of MRTC, which under the BLT shall be borne by the government and the termination of the BLT agreement.