By Arra B. Francia, Reporter
METRO PACIFIC Tollways Corp. (MPTC) is spending P3.7 billion this year for the improvement of its services along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), and the Manila-Cavite Expressway (CAVITEx).
The holding firm for the three major tollways said the funds were used to expand roads and toll plazas, build new exits, improve interchanges, and adopt the latest technologies.
MPTC President and Chief Executive Officer Rodrigo E. Franco said the budget will be exhausted within the year, as bulk has already been spent for expansion of tollways.
“We spent over P2 billion already in NLEx and SCTEx. In CAVITEx, close to P1 billion already has been spent. All of the improvements, these are the expansion and extension projects,” Mr. Franco said in a panel discussion during the launch of Safe Trip Mo, Sagot Ko, the company’s motorist assistance program for All Saints’ Day.
“Natapos na kasi yung malaki dun, yung expansion na P2.7 (billion), yung iba almost finished na rin, yung ongoing (The bulk of the investments, the P2.7-billion expansion is finished. The others are almost finished, while others are ongoing,” Mr. Franco told BusinessWorld when asked whether the allocation will be used up by the end of 2017.
The enhancement of toll road services comes in time for the heavy traffic expected on Nov. 1 (All Saints’ Day) and Nov. 2 (All Souls’ Day), when Filipinos flock to their home provinces to visit the graves of their departed family members.
Mr. Franco said traffic volume usually increases by 15% to 30% during this period, noting NLEx now has a daily traffic volume of around 230,000 vehicles daily.
Work on NLEx began earlier this year, with the addition of 64 new lane-kilometers between Sta. Rita, Guiguinto, Bulacan and Sta. Ines, Mabalacat City, Pampanga. The company has also increased the number of toll lanes in Balintawak, Mindanao Avenue, and Meycauayan toll plazas to boost transaction capacity.
Two new bridges are also being constructed along the San Fernando City Interchange which will be used as separate carriageways to decongest traffic in Pampanga.
Meanwhile, MPTC will be removing the U-turn slot from SCTEx to MacArthur Highway for the Mabiga Interchange to function as a full diamond interchange. On-and-off ramps with entry and exit toll plazas will also be added to facilitate travel.
The Tipo Exit Toll Plaza in SCTEx will also be upgraded to have two new toll lanes, for a total of six toll booths.
For CAVITEx, the company is currently constructing new expressway lanes on both northbound and southbound directions of R1 Coastal Road and a flyover at Pacific Drive.
Aside from improving its services for motorists, the company will also be regulating the speed of vehicles passing through the expressways with the use of Speed System CCTV at the NLEx-SCTEx. This system allows automatic speed profiling, plate number identification, and photo printing.
MPTC is also working on the interoperability of the three expressways through the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) expressways. This system will potentially cut processing time to three seconds per transaction, which will speed up queuing by up to three times, Mr. Franco said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Franco said MPTC is seeking the Toll Regulatory Board’s (TRB) approval for a 25-centavo increase in toll fees for NLEx starting on Nov. 6.
“If you’re traveling from Balintawak to, let’s say Dau, dati ang toll fee mo, P218, ngayon magiging P236. So mag-iincrease lang siya ng P18,” he said. “Meron pang final approval required from TRB.”
MPTC is the tollways arm of tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan’s holding firm, Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC). MPIC is 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.