By Miguel R. Camus
Business tycoon and former Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. is making moves in the infrastructure space as he revealed plans to build his first railway project, with the goal to link Metro Manila to his budding 3,500-hectare metropolis eponymously called Villar City. Villar, the country’s richest man per Forbes Magazine, recently completed a P3.8-billion deal to buy the 4-kilometer Muntinlupa Cavite Expressway project from the Zobel family conglomerate Ayala Corp.
He told reporters during an interview on Tuesday that his group is in talks with Ayala and Manuel V. Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp. to extend the new Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 project deeper into Cavite province, where parts of Villar City are located.
He also mentioned that they are proposing to build seven new train stations in Cavite province. This will come at no cost to the government, he said.
“A lot of investors want to get into railways but they’re worried nothing will happen to the project because they don’t have right-of-way. I can do the right-of-way because I own the land,” said Villar, who founded several publicly listed firms, including Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. and AllDay Marts.
“Trains are a real estate play. It’s not a transportation play,” he said.
Ayala and Metro Pacific are currently building the LRT 1 Cavite extension project. This is one of the big-ticket public private partnership projects awarded during the late President Benigno Aquino III’s administration.
The LRT 1 Cavite project will extend the current LRT 1 by 11.7 kilometers from Baclaran Station in Manila to Niog in Bacoor Cavite.
Villar’s privately held infrastructure arm, Prime Asset Ventures Inc.,submitted an offer in 2018 to build the P92-billion Modified LRT 6 project.
The proposal, which was under evaluation, called for the construction of seven stations spanning 7.2 km from Sucat station up to Lakefront station and 15.3 km from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila up to San Nicolas.
Villar said discussions were still ongoing with Ayala and Metro Pacific. There was also no guarantee the project would be approved by the government. Villar said his project would be linked to the LRT 1 Cavite extension, allowing commuters in Metro Manila to reach Villar City, a sprawling development he hopes would eventually rival some of the country’s largest urban areas such as Bonifacio Global City in Taguig and Makati City.
“I really feel we need to create a new city. There were too many errors with the development of these [other urban areas],” Villar said. INQ