By Miguel R. Camus | Philippine Daily Inquirer | April 1st, 2014

A consortium made up of Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. signed Monday the concession agreement for the P1.72-billion automated fare collection system (AFCS) public private partnership project – the first for the Department of Transportation and Communications – after winning the deal two months ago.

The  contract signing proceeded yesterday even after No. 2 bidder SM Group, which lost by a razor-thin margin, filed its second motion for reconsideration yesterday.

The project is aimed at developing and operating a “contactless” common ticketing system for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 and the Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said on the sidelines of the contract signing that the issues contained in SM’s letter, which stated that SM had submitted a superior “upfront” offer and that the Ayala-Metro Pacific’s AF Consortium violated conflict of interest rules, had already been addressed.

“This is already a second MR and we can’t go on forever with MRs. There should be a limit,” he said.

“We will probably deny [SM’s MR] if it comes to it,” Abaya added. “It’s unfair to prolong this if you’ve already signed the contract,” Abaya added.

With the concession agreement signed, AF Consortium is expected to start by the end of the year with completion in July 2015, Abaya said. He added that the project should be implemented by September next year.

The contract signing was also attended by top executives of AF Consortium, including Ayala chair Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Metro Pacific chair Manuel V. Pangilinan.

“Now that the bid is over and we are about to conclude this agreement, I think the hard work begins this afternoon,” Pangilinan said in a prepared speech. “We have about 18 months to deliver on this promise.”

Zobel, in his speech, noted that the Ayala group hoped to find more ways to collaborate with Metro Pacific.

Both firms have a strategic alliance to bid for railways under the government’s PPP Program.

AF Consortium last December submitted the best offer via a premium bid of P1,088,103,900 against SM’s premium  bid of P1.088 billion—a difference of P103,900 or 0.01 percent.

The premium will be paid to the government to operate the system over the 10-year concession period, according to AF Consortium.

Comworks-Berjaya, the third qualified bidder, had sought a subsidy of P2.05 billion.

The AFCS deal, the second PPP project for Ayala but a first for Metro Pacific, brings to six the number of PPP deals awarded by the Aquino administration.

The other five are the Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway link road (Ayala), the Naia Expressway Phase II (San Miguel), two classroom building projects and the upgrade of the Philippine Orthopedic Center, all bagged by Megawide Construction Corp.