By Arra B. Francia, Reporter
THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) is asking NLEX Corp. to drop its arbitration case over long overdue toll fee adjustments at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx).
“The general approach is, papunta na po sa settlement yan. Hinihingi namin yung arbitration, mawala yung kaso. Ang pagkasunduan na lang namin yung mekanismo kung pano mapapa-implement yung contractual provision regarding increases (It’s nearing settlement. We are asking them to drop the arbitration case. We just need to agree on the mechanism to implement the contractual provision regarding the fare hike),” DoTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said in a panel session during the annual Economic Journalists’ Association of the Philippines Forum in Manila on Tuesday.
He noted settling the arbitration case would be too expensive for the government, adding a gradual toll hike should be the way to go.
“Hindi pa natin alam yung (We don’t yet know the) final form of the settlement, but nevertheless what we are saying is mapapa-implement yung (we will implement the) contractual provision regarding this,” Mr. Tugade said.
For his part, NLEX Corp. President Rodrigo R. Franco said they are open to terminating the arbitration case.
“We’ve supported the position of the government that we find a mutually acceptable way of settling the issue… In terms of settling all the pending toll rate related issues as long as there is a way to settle, we are committed to terminating arbitration case,” Mr. Franco said in the same forum.
The NLEX executive added that they are also in favor of implementing gradual increases for the toll fees, as opposed to a one-time adjustment.
“We’ve considered that if it is going to be one-time (adjustment), it’s not going to be acceptable for the public so we’ve already considered that if we agree on the adjustment it would be on a staggered basis rather than a one-time,” Mr. Franco explained.
Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) filed in April 2016, through NLEX Corp., a notice of arbitration for around P3 billion in compensation for toll adjustments due to take effect on NLEx in both January 2013 and January 2015.
At the same time, MPTC (Metro Pacific Tollways Corp.)also filed through Cavite Infrastructure Corp. a notice of arbitration and statement of claim to the government to obtain P877 million in compensation for its supposed inaction over toll hike petitions due since Jan. 1, 2012; Jan. 1, 2014; and Jan. 1, 2015.
The arbitration case against the government has now amounted to more than P7.5 billion, equivalent to foregone revenues of MPTC. This will continue to increase as long as the government fails to implement the rate hikes.
MPTC is the tollways arm of listed infrastructure conglomerate, 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.
By Arra B. Francia, Reporter