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THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) hopes to award before the end of the year to private proponents two unsolicited highway proposals after they hurdle Swiss challenges.

Mark A. Villar, secretary for public works and highways, told reporters over the weekend DPWH is expecting to get the ball rolling on the Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas Expressway (CTBEx) and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) extension projects by year’s end.

“We’re hoping that by the end of the year (we could finish the Swiss challenge for CTBEx). I’m pretty confident,” he said, noting the project is only awaiting approval by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which is expected by the third quarter.

Regarding the extension of TPLEx to San Juan, La Union, Mr. Villar said: “We’re targeting to start that by this year. Because we’re planning on opening the Rosario exit by September. So ang target namin, sana tuloy-tuloy [Our target is to continue with the extension].”

Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC)’s MPCALA Holdings, Inc. is proposing a P22.43-billion, 50.42-kilometer toll road that will link the Cavite-Laguna Expressway at Silang East Interchange to Tagaytay City and Nasugbu, Batangas.

MPTC President Rodrigo E. Franco earlier said the company is expecting the 60-day Swiss challenge for CTBEx to start sometime in the second half of the year.

Under the Swiss challenge, companies are invited to submit competing proposals to a project, which the original proponent has the right to match.

Meanwhile, San Miguel Corp. (SMC)’s P23.948-billion proposal for a TPLEx extension seeks to build a 59.4-kilometer toll road that will stretch the expressway from Rosario, La Union to San Juan, La Union.

Both MPCALA Holdings and SMC were given original proponent status by the DPWH for their CTBEx and TPLEx extension proposals last year.

The toll road projects are viewed by the DPWH as opportunities to support President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s push for infrastructure projects under the Build, Build, Build program.

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. — Denise A. Valdez