SLEX operator seeks 300% toll hike

By Paolo Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:13:00 05/25/2010

Filed Under: Road Transport, State Budget & Taxes, Investments, Infrastructure

MANILA, Philippines—The operator of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) has asked the government to allow it to raise toll rates by over 300 percent by next month to help the company recover the P12 billion it claims it spent to improve the highway.

Manila Toll Expressway Systems Inc. (Mates), operator of the 30-kilometer toll road from Alabang, Muntinlupa City to Calamba, Laguna, has asked the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) for a rate increase of P2.73 per kilometer for private passenger vehicles. This represents a 333-percent increase over the current 82 centavos per kilometer that motorists using the highway have to pay.

Mates said the toll increase was intended to take effect on June 16. But the company said Monday it had received no approval from the TRB to implement the toll hike.

“We received a letter from the TRB saying that the board had taken ‘favorable action’ on our application,” Mates spokesperson Alma Tuazon said in an interview. “But nothing’s official yet…We are still waiting for their final approval because without that, we can’t do anything.”

The law dictates that toll operators must announce any increase in rates three weeks before adjustments are to take effect. This makes the June 16 date impossible to meet, according to Mates.

In 2006, the Malaysian group won the contract to operate and modernize the SLEx until 2036. The stretch is the main gateway from Metro Manila to areas in the south where most of the country’s electronics and automotive export products are manufactured.

The group took over the stretch late last month after completing most of the public works the road needed. At present, revenue from highway operations amount to as much as P3 million a day.

Over the weekend, operators of the major toll roads expressed optimism the incoming administration would scrap a plan to impose a tax on highway fees paid by motorists.

Members of the Toll Way Association of the Philippines hope to take advantage of leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino III’s hard-line stance against the imposition of new taxes during his term.

The group has argued that the extra 12 percent in value-added tax (VAT) that motorists will have to pay will be a big burden on the motoring public. The higher fees may also cause a drop in the number of cars passing through toll roads.

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