Govt torpor puts SCTEx in disrepair
The 94-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, or SCTEx, was once heralded as a game-changer in the economic landscape of Luzon island. It is the only vertical toll road built in the main island of the Philippines and by far the longest expressway. On a grander scale, the toll road is designed to ultimately reach Dingalan Bay in Aurora province from the Subic Bay Freeport, linking the West Philippines Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east.
Seven years after its commercial opening on April 28, 2008, however, SCTEx is nearing the state of disrepair because of government’s wishy-washy mode.
President Benigno Aquino III, the Transportation Department and the Toll Regulatory Board are not implementing a business operating agreement signed by Manila North Tollways Corp. and the Bases Conversion Development Authority.
French President Francois Hollande, along with President Aquino, witnessed the signing of the deal by MNTC chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan and BCDA president Arnel Casanova in February this year in Malacañang Palace.
MNTC parent Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. shelled out P3 billion as down payment to show its sincerity to get the project moving.
The agreement would have physically linked the two longest expressways in the Philippines—SCTEx and the 83.7-km North Luzon Expressway—and connected central and northern Luzon. The operating deal would also have brought superior technology from MNTC and partner Egis Projects S.A. of France in running SCTEx.
“The SCTEx is no longer the Spic and Span expressway, gleaming under the sun. Aside from being in a state of disrepair, it is also a portrait of an unfulfilled promise,” said a former Transportation official.
MNTC, under the agreement, committed to install new systems and facilities to efficiently run the SCTEx. Its operations and maintenance crew, according to a company insider, were ready to implement heavy maintenance and work on pavements due for overlay.
“MNTC will also improve the traffic management system, upgrade signages, install CCTVs, put up variable message signs and set up a a state-of-the-art traffic control room similar to the one operated by MNTC in Balintawak, Quezon City,” a company insider said.
What’s keeping the government from implementing the long overdue operating contract is anybody’s guess.
MNTC is also grappling with right-of-way problems that are critical to complete the P10.5-billion North Harbour Link Project by December 2016.
“If we get the right of way within the year, the Segment 10 is likely to be completed by December 2016,” MPTC president and chief executive Ramoncito Fernandez earlier said.
Segment 10 of the North Luzon Expressway, a 5.6-kilometer elevated highway in northwest Metro Manila linking MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City and C3 Road in Caloocan City, was only 15 percent complete since construction started in May 2014.
Fernandez said the government should deliver about 75 percent of the right-of-way requirements this year to enable MNTC to complete the project by December 2016.
“The right of way in the north rail section of the Segment 10 project is critical,” he said. Unit MNTC expects a daily traffic of 30,000 vehicles in Segment 10.
MNTC president and chief executive Rodrigo Franco earlier said the company expects to spend another P5.1 billion to extend the NLEx Harbor Link from C3 Road in Caloocan City to Radial Road 10 in Tondo, Manila.
“If we get the necessary permits from the Toll Regulatory Board, we can start the project immediately,” Franco said.
The company plans to start the construction of 2.6 kilometers of elevated expressway from C3 to R10 by September this year and complete it by December 2016.
MNTC completed and opened the P1.59-billion Segment 9 of the NLEx Harbor Link, a 2.42-kilometer expressway, to the public in March.
Segment 9 connects NLEX from Smart Connect Interchange to MacArthur Highway in Karuhatan, Valenzuela City. The new road is expected to serve as many as 27,000 vehicles daily in the first year and ease traffic in major thoroughfares.