Friday, 30 April 2010

SLEX to be extended after May 2 turnover

Malaysia firm to take over SLEx operations
By Paolo Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE LOCAL UNIT OF MALAYSIAN conglomerate MTD Capital Berhad plans to spend up to P10 billion more to extend the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) by at least 55 kilometers from Sto. Tomas in Laguna province to Lucena City, Quezon.

Isaac David, president of MTD Capital unit South Luzon Tollways Corp. (SLTC) said the company would break ground in May to extend the present 30-kilometer highway further south.

SLTC’s sister firm, Manila Toll Expressway Systems Inc. (MATES), has already secured the government’s approval to take over SLEx operations, which is currently being run by state-owned Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC).

The turnover will take place on May 2 at 12:01 a.m.

“We have already completed over 99 percent of the things that need to be done at SLEx,” David said in a recent interview.

In 2006, MATES was able to secure the contract to modernize and operate SLEx until 2036. In return, its affiliate SLTC would invest P12 billion to widen the highway and improve the toll collection system.

At present, revenue from highway operations amount to as much as P3 million a day.

The company last December tried to take over highway operations from PNCC. But the state firm resisted, saying that the move would result in the displacement of over 1,000 PNCC workers.

The state firm, which successfully obtained a restraining order from the Pasig Regional Trial Court, also argued that since SLTC had not yet completed all the work needed at SLEx, MATES had no right to take over.

Last April 15, MATES was able to secure a toll operations permit from the Toll Regulator Board (TRB), paving the way for its takeover of SLEx on May 2.

MATES told the board that 99.8 percent of roadwork had been completed, while company employees had started manning most of the toll collection booths at SLEx.

“The PNCC has been very cooperative. They’ve allowed our employees to man most of the toll booths, so I believe there will be a smooth transition this weekend,” David said.

SLTC is now preparing to extend SLEx by at least 55 kilometers to Lucena City, David said.

“We have already undertaken engineering due diligence. I think a year and a half from now, the project will start, but this will also depend on how soon the government provides the right-of-way,” David told the Inquirer.

The toll road currently spans 30 kilometers from Alabang to Calamba, Laguna. Once SLTC completes a short extension to Sto. Tomas, also in Laguna, the total length of the highway will be 37 kilometers.

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