No Skyway 3 closure amid TRB inaction on toll

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    Built with no gov’t money. Skyway Stage 3 which opened  to motorists in early February has significantly cut travel time between the south and Luzon expressways.

    San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) Skyway Stage 3 project will remain operational despite the Toll Regulatory Board’s (TRB) inaction on its petition to impose toll fees.

    Ramon Ang, SMC president, said in a statement “Skyway 3 will remain open,” following a misunderstanding between SMC’s infrastructure unit and the TRB.

    It was announced by SMC that Skyway Stage 3 will be closed indefinitely starting March 16, following the order of TRB, but it was denied by the TRB.

    Ang said he has relayed this commitment to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade who, in turn, committed to act upon the company’s concerns with urgency and prudence.

    “Basically, TRB is insisting that Skyway 3 cannot start full operations and collect toll until all ramps are 100 percent complete. Our supplemental toll operation agreement states that we can start collecting at 95 percent completion – we are now 97 percent complete,” Ang said.

    “We need sufficient funds for the toll road’s daily maintenance, proper long-term upkeep and to keep it safe and efficient for the motoring public. As Skyway 3’s losses have been mounting because TRB keeps delaying the start of toll collection, the quickest way for our infrastructure unit to speed up 100 percent completion of the ramps would have been to close Skyway 3,” Ang explained.

    Skyway 3 was built at no cost to government. SMC fully funded the over P80 billion cost to build it, Ang pointed out.

    “We have also made a lot of concessions – including lowering toll fees – in the interest of the public. Also, Skyway 3 is new, but heavy everyday use causes it to deteriorate if not maintained properly. We spend a lot for its upkeep, and at the same time lose a lot in foregone revenues. We cannot operate this and serve people if the project is not generating revenues,” he added.

    To fast-track completion, Ang said SMC paid for all right-of-way costs, including paying of properties at prevailing market value. It also shouldered the cost to relocate utilities as well as the reconstruction of three bridges.

    To ensure that motorists will not bear the heavy burden of high toll fees, SMC had also revised the original proposed fare matrix to significantly lower toll rates, making it more equitable for motorists especially during the pandemic.

    “In good faith, during our earlier discussions with TRB, we lowered the proposed toll rates significantly. Basically, we took out and deferred collection of most of the cost of right-of-way acquisition. After that, we lowered the rates even further, so that people travelling short distances would pay much less,” Ang said.

    In the petition for initial toll rates filed with TRB by SMC unit Central Metro Manila Skyway Corp. dated January 8, 2021, SMC proposed toll fees including tax of P110 for northbound from Buendia going to Quirino, and P274 for Buendia to North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).

    For southbound, P133 from NLEX to Sgt. Rivera and Quezon Avenue, and P274 going to Buendia.

    With Skyway 3, travel from South Luzon Expressway to NLEX only takes 20 minutes, from around three hours previously. Magallanes to Balintawak will only take about 15 minutes, Balintawak to Ninoy Aquino International Airport also only 15 minutes, and Valenzuela to Makati, 10 minutes.