An award-winning public servant from Valenzuela City has expressed his strong opposition against the planned increase in toll fees of the operators of the North Luzon Expressway or NLEX and the Manila-Cavite toll expressway or Cavitex.
At the same time, Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian called on the Toll Regulatory Board to reject such petitions for toll hike by the Manila North Tollways Corp. or MNTC and the Cavite Infrastructure Corp. or CIC.
Gatchalian said the timing of the hike in toll fees for NLEX and Cavitex is questionable especially when prices of gasoline and petroleum products are at their lowest with the price of crude stood at over $65 per barrel for January deliveries.
“The current price plunge of petroleum products is a boon for consumers as it dampens inflationary pressures. The planned increase in toll fees in NLEX and Cavitex will definitely negate the gains made from falling gasoline prices as public utility buses passing through will definitely pass on to commuters the increase in toll fees,” Gatchalian explained.
The former Valenzuela City mayor noted that even Meralco is lowering its generation charge this December by 19 centavos per kilowatt hour in response to the plunging prices of oil, which analysts are expecting to fall further to under $50 a barrel after the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) failed to agree on a plan to curtail supplies and firm up prices.
“Oil industry analysts anticipate declining prices to continue for 12 to 18 months or until 2016. The analysts, however, gave no scenario on what could possibly cause prices to firm up. The only possible cause for reversal of the trend is a pickup in global growth across the board,” explained Gatchalian.
Gatchalian is urging the TRB executive director Edmundo Reyes Jr. to dismiss outright the petitions of NLEX and Cavitex for toll fee increase as this will not only negate the savings from oil price rollback but will also dampen the celebratory mood of commuters this Christmas season.
The MNTC is seeking an average 15.2 percent increase in toll at 86.7-kilometer NLEX, which is allowed under the Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement (STOA) signed in April 1998. Under the proposed toll increase, the company intends to charge motorists P46.81 per entry under the open system from the current P40.61, excluding value added tax (VAT), and P2.74 per kilometer under the closed system from the current P2.37 per kilometer for Class 1 vehicles particularly cars and vans.
For Class 2 vehicles, including buses, MNTC intends to charge P117.02 for the open system from P101.53 and P6.85 per kilometer for the closed system from P5.94 per kilometer. For Class 3 vehicles, including trucks, the operator intends to impose a toll of P140.43 for the open system from P121.84 as well as P8.22 per kilometer for the closed system from P7.13 per kilometer.
On the other hand, the CIC, a unit of infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), is seeking to jack up toll rates at the 13.5-kilometer Cavitex at an average of 22.7 percent starting January 1, 2015.
The company intends to raise the toll to P27 from P22, excluding VAT, for Class 1 vehicles particularly cars and vans, and to P54 from P44 for Class 2 vehicles, including buses. For Class 3 vehicles including trucks, the operator intends to impose a toll of P81 from P66. Including VAT, Class 1 vehicles would be charged P30 per entry, P61 for Class 2 vehicles and P91 for Class 3 vehicles.
Aside from NLEX and Cavitex, a toll hike petition for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) is also pending at the TRB since 2012. SCTEX operator Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) was proposing a 19 percent toll increase.
The concessionaires of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) have also requested government permission to adjust toll rates starting on New Year’s Day but later on withdrew their respective petitions.
“If the concessionaires of SLEX and STAR can do away with toll fee increases, I don’t see any reason why MNTC and CIC can’t follow their example,” concluded Gatchalian. (R. Burgos)