MNTC weighs arbitration case

Manila North Tollways Corp. may seek an arbitration proceeding against the Philippine government after the Toll Regulatory Board rejected its P2.4-billion compensation claim for failure to increase the toll in the last three years.

“What was denied by TRB is the claim for compensation for lost revenues. The TRB said there was no dispute yet because the process of toll rates petition is not yet completed. So, we cannot pay you compensation on lost revenues,” MNTC president and chief executive Rodrigo Franco said.

Franco, however, said MNTC had to adjust the toll every two years under the provision of a concession agreement with the government.

“We are technically on the mandatory amicable settlement stage after which we will go to mediation. Arbitration will come after,”  Franco said.

The NLEx operator in September last year filed a petition with the TRB for the bi-annual toll adjustment that was supposed to fall due on January 1, 2015 as provided in the concession agreement.

MNTC’s new petition is in addition to the pending request it filed in 2012 for a toll increase scheduled in January 2013.

The current petition will bring the cumulative toll adjustment to 15 percent, including 12 percent that is long overdue.

The average daily traffic at NLEx in the first six months of the year stood at 198,500, up 7 percent from 185,267 on year.

MNTC earlier reported a net income of P1.45 billion in the first six months of the year, up 8 percent from P1.34 billion on year.

Net income in the second quarter amounted to P770.35 million, up 13.7 percent from P677.39  million last year.

Revenues in the first six months reached P4.05 billion, up 7 percent from  P3.77 billion last year. Revenue in the second quarter amounted to P2.08 billion from P1.94 billion last year.

Earlier, MNTC said it expected the government to issue the terms of the Swiss challenge this month for the long-delayed NLEx-SLEx Connector Road Project.

Franco had said the revised project cost of the 8-kilometer, six-lane elevated expressway linking the end of the Skyway in Buendia to Balintawak was P16.5 billion.

The right-of-way acquisition cost, meanwhile, is estimated at over P5 billion.

The new project estimate is lower than the original cost of P22 billion after the NLEx-SLEx Connector Road Project was reduced to eight kilometers from 13.5 kilometers.

Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp., which is separately constructing the P26.7-billion Skyway Stage 3 Project, will construct the five-kilometer common alignment from Polytechnic University of the Philippines to Buendia in Makati City of the NLEX-SLEX project.

The board of the National Economic and Development Authority earlier approved the NLEx-SLEx Connector Project under the unsolicited mode subject to a Swiss Challenge.

The government decided to subject the project to a Swiss challenge after the Justice Department issued a legal opinion, saying the Neda board decision to implement the project as a joint venture was “without factual basis or jurisdiction.”

The joint-venture route aims to do away with the Swiss challenge, which has been required of the project when it was still being pursued as an unsolicited venture.

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