San Miguel Corp. on Tuesday said Skyway Stage 3 will remain open to motorists despite the inaction of the Toll Regulatory Board to issue a toll operation permit.
“Skyway 3 will remain open,” Ramon S. Ang, SMC president and chief operating officer, said following a misunderstanding between its infrastructure unit and the Toll Regulatory Board.
Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson strongly reacted to the reported closure of Skyway Project 3, calling it another case of over-regulation by the government he that he referred to as “perwisyo!”
Senator Win Gatchalian said the Toll Regulatory Board should get their act together.
“This is not only causing confusion but also distress to the public, especially to those already plying the route regularly since late last year,” he said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the TRB should decide on toll fees and encourage business to invest in our infrastructure needs.
Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan pressed the Department of Transportation and the TRB to explain the latter’s supposed directive to indefinitely close the project starting Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Ang said he had relayed this commitment to Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade who, in turn, committed to act on the company’s concerns.
“Basically, TRB is insisting that Skyway 3 cannot start full operations and collect toll until all ramps are 100 percent complete. Our supplemental toll operation agreement states that we can start collecting at 95 percent completion; we are now 97 percent complete. We need sufficient funds for the toll road’s daily maintenance, proper long-term upkeep and to keep it safe and efficient for the motoring public,” Ang said.
“As Skyway 3’s losses have been mounting because TRB keeps delaying the start of toll collection, the quickest way for our infrastructure unit to speed up 100 percent completion of the ramps would have been to close Skyway 3.”
According to Ang, Tugade understands the company’s predicament.
“Skyway 3 was built at no cost to the government. SMC fully funded the over P80 billion cost to build it. After years of hard work, we opened it last December 29 so we can start serving the public for free, for a reasonable amount of time,” Ang said.
“We have also made a lot of concessions–including lowering toll fees–in the interest of the public. Also, Skyway 3 is new, but heavy everyday use causes it to deteriorate if not maintained properly. We spend a lot for its upkeep, and at the same time lose a lot in foregone revenues. We cannot operate this and serve people if the project is not generating revenues.”
Ang noted that the cost of Skyway 3 increased significantly because of problems in the acquisition of right-of-way leading to major redesigns, realignments, reconstructing which raised costs and extended the construction to two administrations.
To fast-track completion, Ang said, SMC paid for all right-of-way costs, including the paying of properties at prevailing market value.
It also shouldered the cost to relocate utilities, as well as the reconstruction of three bridges.
To ensure that motorists will not bear the heavy burden of high toll fees, SMC had also revised the original proposed fare matrix to significantly lower toll rates to make it more equitable for motorists, especially during this pandemic.
“In good faith, during our earlier discussions with TRB, we lowered the proposed toll rates significantly. Basically, we took out and deferred collection of most of the cost of right-of-way acquisition.
After that, we lowered the rates even further, so that people travelling short distances would pay much less,” Ang said.