TOLL road developer and operator Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) has yet to feel the impact of rising fuel prices on the vehicle traffic volume on its road network in the country, its chief financial officer said.

“We haven’t felt the impact of the fuel price increases. For the first half, we have already exceeded the 2019 traffic volumes, so pre-pandemic,” MPTC Chief Finance Officer Christopher Daniel C. Lizo told reporters during a gathering in Cavite last week.

“In total, across the network, I think we are maybe 5-6% above the 2019 traffic volumes,” he said, referring to the traffic volume seen in June. “That’s excluding the new roads that opened.”

On its website, MPTC said it handles 700,000 vehicles per day on average during the pandemic and close to a million vehicles per day pre-pandemic.

The company’s toll roads include North Luzon Expressway, Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway, Manila–Cavite Expressway, Cavite–Laguna Expressway,  and Cebu–Cordova Link Expressway.

The company saw a slowdown in traffic in the first five days of July, Mr. Lizo said.

“Maybe by 6% compared to June. It’s also a function of seasonality. Traffic peaks in the second quarter, summer. Kapag tag-ulan na, bumababa talaga yan. (In the rainy season, traffic falls.)”

MPCALA Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of MPTC, is eyeing the operationalization of its upcoming interchange, the Silang (Aguinaldo) Interchange, in the latter part of the year.

“This will extend CALAX’s operational sections from Mamplasan, Laguna, to Aguinaldo Highway in Silang, Cavite,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

“As of today, the 3.9-kilometer 2×2 lane CALAX subsection reaches 56% of completion. Part of the ongoing works includes drainage and bridge constructions, excavation and roadway earthworks, and installation of fence and coco net,” it added.

Raul L. Ignacio, MPCALA Holdings president and general manager, said the Silang (Aguinaldo) Interchange is expected to help decongest the busiest highway in Cavite, the 41-kilometer Emilio Aguinaldo Highway. 

“Motorists from Manila going to the famous tourist destinations of Silang and Tagaytay, Cavite will surely benefit from this upcoming project as it offers convenience and shorter travel time.”

The 45-kilometer CALAX project has eight subsections: Kawit to Open Canal (subsection 1), Open Canal to Governor’s Drive (subsection 2), Governor’s Drive to Silang (subsection 3), Silang to Silang East (subsection 4), Silang East to Santa Rosa (subsection 5), and Santa Rosa to Mamplasan (subsections 6, 7, & 8).

Subsections 6 to 8 started operations in 2019 and CALAX Laguna segment interchanges, which are part of the subsections 6 to 8, opened the following year. These interchanges are the Laguna Boulevard Interchange and the Laguna Technopark Interchange.

Last year, CALAX Subsection 5, which connects Silang East to Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road Interchange, was inaugurated, extending the expressway’s operating sections from 10 to 14.24 kilometers.

Full completion of the CALAX project is expected in 2023. Once fully operational, the project is expected to cut travel time between the CAVITEX and SLEX to 45 minutes from the current 2.5 hours.

MPTC is the tollways unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., one of three key Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT Inc.

Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arjay L. Balinbin