Swiss challenge for two road projects under review delayed

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By Denise A. Valdez

THE Swiss challenge for the unsolicited proposals of the Metro Pacific group for the Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas Expressway (CTBEx) and the San Miguel group for the extension of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) may not make it within the year.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) told BusinessWorld over the weekend the two projects are still with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for review. The Swiss challenge, or the competitive procurement process where third-party companies are invited to challenge an unsolicited proposal, can only come after NEDA has approved the project.

“We need to wait for NEDA evaluation results. For the timeline, most probably next year ang Swiss challenge,” DPWH Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Director Alex G. Bote said in a text message Saturday.

The Swiss challenge for both projects were originally targeted to start in the first half of the year. If the original proponents emerge successful in the competitive process, they will be automatically awarded the concession for the project and may proceed with the groundbreaking.

Last year, the DPWH awarded both companies with the original proponent status for their unsolicited proposals to develop expressways in the neighboring regions north and south of Metro Manila.

For CTBEx, the Metro Pacific group, through MPCALA Holdings, Inc. is bidding for a P22.43-billion, 50.42-kilometer toll road that will connect the Cavite-Laguna Expressway at Silang East Interchange to Tagaytay City and Nasugbu, Batangas.

For the TPLEx extension, the San Miguel group, through San Miguel Holdings Corp., is pitching a P23.948-billion, 59.4-kilometer extension of the existing 89.2-kilometer TPLEx from Rosario, La Union to San Juan, La Union.

The two projects are the first two unsolicited proposals that the DPWH had endorsed to NEDA under the Duterte administration. DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar earlier said these are good opportunities for the private sector to engage in the government’s aggressive push for infrastructure projects under the Build, Build, Build program.

Once completed, MPCALA said CTBEx will help reduce travel time from Governor’s Drive to Nasugbu by about an hour, and from Sta. Rosa to Tagaytay by 1 hour and 15 minutes.

The TPLEx extension, meanwhile, is expected to promote development in Northern Luzon and improve connectivity to Central Luzon and Metro Manila, according to a project brief on the DPWH website.

MPCALA Holdings is under Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., the tollways unit of Metro Pacific Investments 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.