THE provincial government of Cavite said only one challenger registered and purchased bid documents for the competitive challenge process of the Cavite-Batangas Expressway (CBEX), a 27.06-kilometer toll road proposed by San Miguel Holdings Corp. (SMHC).

“A law firm bought (the bid documents),” Cavite Governor Juanito Victor C. Remulla told BusinessWorld in a phone message on Monday.

“They did not divulge who they were representing,” he added.

Annaliza Mercene-Pulmones, Cavite’s public-private partnership selection committee secretary and provincial legal officer, confirmed the information in a separate phone message.

“We will know that during the day of submission of bid proposal on Jan. 24, 2023,” she said.

The province set Dec. 12 as the deadline for potential challengers to register and purchase bid documents.

To participate, challengers had to register, submit their expressions of interest, sign the prescribed form of the non-disclosure agreement, and pay the non-refundable participation fee or cost of bid documents on or before the deadline.

The province also said that SMHC, which is the original proponent of the project, will have the right to match the offer made by the highest-ranked challenger.

The successful bidder will become the Cavite government’s joint venture partner for the project. It will finance, design, construct, operate and maintain the project under a 35-year concessional period.

CBEX is a toll road traversing through the municipalities of Silang, Amadeo, Tagaytay, Indang, Mendez, and Alfonso in Cavite, as well as Nasugbu in Batangas where a San Miguel Corp. company also operates a toll expressway: the 41.9-kilometer Southern Tagalog Arterial Road, which is commonly known as STAR Tollway.

The project is planned to have three access or interchange points. These are in Silang, Cavite; Tagaytay; and Nasugbu/Alfonso.

The province awarded SMHC the original proponent status (OPS) for the project on June 30. That status gives the private company the right to proceed with detailed negotiations and if successful, to exercise the right to match the best comparative proposal.

The Cavite government and SMHC reached successful negotiation on Sept. 1.

The Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. has said the alignment of CBEX overlaps with the company’s proposed P25.24-billion Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas Expressway (CTBEX).

CTBEX will traverse mostly the rural areas of Silang, Tagaytay, Amadeo, Mendez, Alfonso, and Magallanes in Cavite province, and Nasugbu in Batangas province. The project will have interchanges in Silang, Pook, Aguinaldo, Amadeo, Mendez, Alfonso, Magallanes, and Nasugbu.

In 2018, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) awarded MPCALA Holdings, Inc., a unit of MPTC, the OPS for CTBEX.

The DPWH said that coordination with the Metro Pacific Tollways group for the submission of the remaining documentary requirements to the National Economic and Development Authority is ongoing.

SMHC has also proposed to build a 60.9-kilometer toll road from Nasugbu to Bauan. The provincial government of Batangas recently called for the submission of comparative proposals for the Nasugbu-Bauan Expressway (NBEX) joint-venture project with SMHC.

The four-lane NBEX will traverse the municipalities of Nasugbu, Tuy, Balayan, Calaca, Lemery, San Nicolas, Agoncillo, Taal, Sta. Teresita, Alitagtag, San Luis, and Bauan. It will have at least five access or interchange points at different locations from Nasugbu to Bauan. — Arjay L. Balinbin