Monday, 29 March 2010

SLEx operations to be turned over to Malaysians in April

Emilia Narni J. David

OPERATIONS OF the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) will be soon handed over to private operator Manila Toll Express System, Inc. (MATES) as construction at the expressway is nearing completion.

Isaac S. David, president of expressway contractor South Luzon Tollways Corp. (SLTC), told BusinessWorld construction is nearing 100%.

“[This] means there would be an automatic handover of operations of the expressway. By the end of April we will already reach 100% and we foresee no blocks to our reaching completion because the PNCC (Philippine National Construction Corp.) has been very cooperative,” said Mr. David.

SLTC needs to finish by April the construction of the toll canopies and toll booths for five toll plazas.

The PNCC said operations may be turned over by April.

“Yes we can expect SLTC to be done by then. Major accomplishments have been done as well on the facilities,” said Ma. Theresa T. Defensor, president of PNCC.

PNCC is the original holder of the concession for the North and South Luzon expressways, but its congressional franchise expired two years ago.

With the state-led firm’s legal hold on tollway operations in question, regulators resorted to tollway operation certificates (TOC), giving one each to private firms operating the North Luzon Expressway and the Metro Manila Skyway under joint ventures with the PNCC.

Amid construction at the SLEx, the TOC was given to PNCC directly.

SLTC is PNCC’s joint venture with Malaysian investors to upgrade the major tollway at the cost of P8.5 billion.

Under a 30-year Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement or STOA approved by Malacañang in 2006, in which PNCC agreed to lend its franchise to the SLTC joint venture, SLTC must take over after completing the tollway rehabilitation. SLTC has widened the 1.2-kilometer Alabang Viaduct and the 27-kilometer stretch of the SLEx from Alabang to Calamba, Laguna.

Last November, a new TOC for the SLEx was given to MATES, a firm controlled by the Malaysian investors in SLTC.

The project to rehabilitate the expressway was supposed to be completed last year.

Mr. David said construction would be suspended to give way to motorists traveling to provinces during the Holy Week.

“We’re going to stop construction to give way to the Holy Week traffic even if the traffic is usually in Calamba where there is no more construction. But we just don’t want to further inconvenience motorists in the biggest traffic build up along the road,” said Mr. David.

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