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Seamless travel

Integration is the name of the game for tollway builders

With the horrendous traffic  in the metropolis a long-pestering problem, the  Duterte administration  has taken a drastic move by asking Congress for  emergency powers to resolve the long-pestering problem as it  searches high and low for   long-term solutions, one  of which is   to support the private investors in building more roads  and spur  seamless travel of people and cargo. 

“If you see the traffic situation now, you know that we need more roads,”  says Rodrigo Franco, president and chief executive of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp.  

MPTC is the largest operator of expressway in the Philippines, which owns the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark Tarlac Expressway and the Manila Cavite Expressway. 

According to a study by Japan International Cooperation Agency, the   cost of traffic in Metro Manila  amounts to  P2.4 billion each day.

Franco said private expressways can help ease the traffic situation in Metro Manila, but it is not the only solution. 

Rodrigo Franco, MPTC president
“The traffic problem needs contribution from many sectors, including the construction of new highways, upgrading of mass transport system and of course discipline among motorists,” he said. 

“If you are able to divert certain sectors of the motoring public to the toll road, then you improve the capacity of the public roads. So thats [toll road] really intended for people who value time and who want to go their destination faster they will use the toll roads and those who have lower value of time then they can use the public roads,” Franco added. 

New  projects 

Franco said MPTC is investing  P132 billion over the next few years to build more expressways  in Metro Manila and Cebu. 

MPTC is   constructing the  Segment 10 of the NLEX Harbour Link, a 5.6-km elevated expressway costing P10.5 billion and running from Valenzuela City all the way to C3 in Caloocan City. The project is  expected to be compled in the second half of 2017.

Another MPTC’s project  pertains to  the  P2.6 billion Segment 2 and 3 NLEX Road-Widening Project to accommodate growing traffic numbers, which commenced last  March 9. 

Franco said the project will expand the existing two-lane portion of NLEX between Sta. Rita and San Fernando to three lanes on both the northbound and southbound sides, while the current one-lane stretch between Dau and Sta. Ines will be expanded to two lanes in each direction.

The TRB also issued a conditional notice to proceed with the construction of the C5 Link Expressway, part of the existing CAVITEX network and a P10 billion project spanning 7.6 kilometers to link C-5 Road in Tausig to R-1 (Coastal) Expressway. Construction is expected to start by the first quarter of 2017 upon approval of the final engineering design.

In addition, the company secured a 35-year contract to  build the P35.4 billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway, which  will  start construction  next year. 

In April 2016, MPTC signed a joint venture agreement with the City of Cebu and Municipality of Cordova to build the P27.9 billion Cebu-Cordova Bridge Project. The 8.25-km bridge project, set to be completed by 2020, will connect Cebu City to Mactan Island via Cordova.

The Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corp. is also awaiting  the issuance of notice of award to construct an  elevated expressway to connect the Northern and Southern toll road systems at a cost of P18 billion. 

Cavitex Infrastructure Corp. president and chief executive Luigi Bautista said the company started the construction of the first phase of the C5 South Link Expressway, stretching from C5 Road in Taguig toward Moonwalk and Merville villages in Sucat, Parañaque was expected on May 2.

Construction is expected to begin in July 2016. 

Bautista said the company would spend P2.5 billion for the construction of the first segment, while the second segment, from Sucat all the way to Cavitex, would cost P7.5 billion. 

He said the new expressway, which was expected to be completed in 2019, would add 40,000 to 45,000 vehicle traffic per day, on top of the 130,000 vehicle traffic per day at Cavitex. 

The C5 South Link will ultimately connect with the R1 Expressway (Coastal Road) and will provide fast, safe and convenient travel for motorists going to and from Parañaque, Las Piñas and Cavite and for Paranaque residents in Multinational, Moonwalk and Merville villages. 

The new expressway will not only decongest the Parañaque villages, but will also  speed up  travel from Taguig, Makati, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon City and other northern areas to Manila, Las Piñas and Cavite province.

It  is envisioned to provide relief  to  vehicles using the congested Edsa and C5 Road arteries of the metropolis.

When completed, the expressway will provide  seamless connection to the Cavitex road network, and to the Cavite-Laguna Expressway slated for completion in 2020. 

The new C5 Link is envisioned to spur  economic development in Parañaque and in Cavite and Laguna provinces by providing a safe and convenient link from the central and northern parts of Metro Manila to the high-growth industrial and residential centers in Southern Tagalog.

San Miguel Corp. also ivesting P13.1 billion to extend the South Luzon Expressway from Sto. Tomas Batangas to Lucena in Quezon province or SLEX-Toll Road 4. 

The project is divided into five sections. Section 1 covers Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Macban, Laguna (10.58 kms); Macban, Laguna to San Pablo, Laguna (12.2 kms); San Pablo, Laguna to Tiaong, Quezon (8.1 kms); Tiaong to Candelaria, Quezon (14.4 kms); and Candelaria to Lucena City, Quezon (12.31 kms).

South Luzon said it planned to complete the first section from Santo Tomas to Macban by mid-2017 and the entire project by 2019.

The four-lane, expressway project is seen to make travel to and from Southern Tagalog provinces such as Batangas, Laguna, Quezon and the Bicol region faster and safer.

The project is expected to cut travel time between Sto. Tomas and Lucena to just one hour from the usual four hours.

The SLEx-Toll Road 4 is the latest project in San Miguel’s infrastructure portfolio, which already includes the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, the at-grade and elevated Skyway system and Skyway Stage 3, the Naia Expressway, the existing SLEx and the recently upgraded and expanded Southern Tagalog Arterial Road, or STAR Tollway.

Challenges 

Franco said one of the main challenges of the private investors in building more tollways  are the regulatory issue  and   right of way acquisition. 

“The problem in regulatory is that hindi nila sinusunod yung provisions of the contact especially on the tariff. That is why our investors are saying, why do you want to build more roads  if the tariff is not implemented?,” Franco said. 

The Manila North Tollways Corp., the operator of NLEX and Cavitex Holdings Infrastructure Inc. recently filed an arbitration case against the government for failure to implement toll rates adjustments since 2013. 

MNTC and Cavitex are claiming over P4 billion. 

Despite the arbitration case, Franco said MNTC and Cavitex are hopeful that the Duterte administration will grant their request  to  adjust  toll rates. 

“We think because of our traffic congestion issue the government  has no choice but to look at the private sector to help fill the infrastructure gap. So that’s the motivation for us because it is needed and the country will eventually address its regulatory issues,” Franco said. 

“The government will eventually recognize that if they don’t treat the investors fairly the investor will lose interest,” he added. 

Integration 

Franco also said that his group is in talks with other  toll road operators to integrate their toll system in a bid to reduce travel time of motorists. 

“We are talking. It’s possible to come up with an agreement this year, but I doubt the actual integration and inter-operation would be completed this year because it’s complicated,” Franco said. 

MPTC is the parent firm of Manila North Tollways Corp. and Cavitex Infrastructure Holdings Inc.  MNTC operates the NLEX and SCTEX, while Cavitex Holdings operates the Manila Cavite Expressway. 

San Miguel, on the other hand, owns the Skyway, South Luzon Expressway and Tarlac-Pangasinan La Union-Expressway and Ayala Corp. operates the Muntinlupa Cavite Expressway. 

MPTC’s move came after  Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade  urged  toll road operators to integrate their toll system to reduce travel time of motorists. 

Last year, the toll collection system of NLEX and SCTEX was integrated into  one, reducing the travel time from Balitawak to Tarlac by 40 minutes. 

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said Tarlac City and Binalonan, Pangasinan is now connected in less than one hour via the completed 67.9 kilometers Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) benefiting about 20,000 vehicles per day.

“The Duterte administration is fast-tracking the construction of all projects to ensure that communities are livable, safe and accessible. The opening of this segment would cut travel time from Tarlac to Urdaneta by over 70% and would ensure easy access to many tourist destinations in Pangasinan,” Villar said. 

“This is only one of the many infrastructure investments which we hope to put in place to enhance  competitiveness and ease of doing business outside of Metro Manila. By improving our road network, we hope to strengthen agricultural and rural enterprise productivity as well as urban and rural tourism,” he added. 

The opening of the 4.92 kilometer Urdaneta- Binalonan segment has reduced travel time from Tarlac City to Urdaneta from 2 hours and 30 minutes to about 40 minutes. 

Progress of work for the construction of 7.53 kilometer Binalonan-Pozzurubio segment  has  reached 61 percent and is expected to be completed by December 2016.

“We want the next segment completed in time for the Christmas season as this road would further reduce travel time to Baguio City and other areas of Northern Luzon and Cordillera,”  Villar said. 

“Procrastinating contractors have no place in this administration. The moment we delay our projects, we deny the Filipino people their right to demand prudent use of their tax money,” he added.  

Villar said that by 2018, it is expected that the whole 88.85 kilometer stretch of TPLEX will be fully operational.   The 13.38 kilometer Pozorrubio, Pangasinan to Rosario, La Union segment will be completed by April 2018.

Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway is a P24.4 billion expressway project under Public Private Partnership, with Private Infra Dev Corp. (PIDC) as proponent. It is a 4-lane asphalt concrete pavement (ACP) road, complete with shoulder, drainage, bridge, and underpass components.

Upon completion, TPLEX is expected to benefit over 100,000 vehicles per day and will cut travel time to Gerona, Paniqui, Rosales, Urdanata, and Rosario.     

Issues and challenges in this particular sector persist but investors and government are keen on forging ahead with their respective gameplans and projects.

The ultimate goal  is to bring about seamless, speedy travel and transport of motorists, commuters and cargo. 

Topics: Integration , tollway builders , Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. , North Luzon Expressway , NLEX , Subic-Clark Tarlac Expressway , Manila Cavite Expressway
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