MANILA — Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) should reject toll fee increases filed by Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) and the Cavite Infrastructure Corp. (CIC), Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said Thursday.
The request of MNTC, operator of the North Luzon Expressway, and CIC, operator of the Manila-Cavite toll expressway, for toll hike is “moot” since it comes at a time when prices of gasoline and other petroleum products are at their lowest with the price of crude for January deliveries stood at just over USD 65 per barrel.
“The current price plunge of petroleum products is a boon for consumers as it dampens inflationary pressures. The planned increase in toll fees will definitely negate the gains made from falling gasoline prices as public utility buses passing through NLEX and Cavitex will definitely pass on to commuters the increase in toll fees,” Gatchalian said.
He said that even Meralco is lowering its generation charge this December by 19 centavos per kilowatt hour in response to the plunging prices of oil, which analysts are expecting to fall further to under USD 50 a barrel after the Organization of Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) failed to agree on a plan to curtail supplies and firm up prices.
“Oil industry analysts anticipate declining prices to continue for 12 to 18 months or until 2016. The analysts, however, gave no scenario on what could possibly cause prices to firm up. The only possible cause for reversal of the trend is a pickup in global growth across the board,” Gatchalian said.
He urged the TRB executive director Edmundo Reyes Jr. to dismiss outright the petitions of NLEX and Cavitex for toll fee increase as this will not only negate the savings from oil price rollback but will also dampen the celebratory mood of commuters this Christmas season.
The MNTC is seeking an average of 15.2-percent increase in toll at 86.7 kilometer NLEX, which is allowed under the Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement (STOA) signed in April 1998. Under the proposed toll increase, the company intends to charge motorists Php46.81 per entry under the open system from the current Php40.61, excluding value added tax, and Php2.74 per kilometer under the closed system from the current Php2.37 per kilometer for Class 1 vehicles, particularly cars and vans.
For Class 2 vehicles, including buses, MNTC intends to charge Php117.02 for the open system from Php101.53 and Php6.85 per kilometer for the closed system from Php5.94 per kilometer. For Class 3 vehicles, including trucks, the operator intends to impose a toll of Php140.43 for the open system from Php121.84 as well as Php8.22 per kilometer for the closed system from Php7.13 per kilometer.
On the other hand, the CIC, a unit of infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), is seeking to jack up toll rates at the 13.5-kilometer Cavitex at an average of 22.7 percent starting Jan. 1, 2015.
The company intends to raise the toll to Php27 from Php22, excluding value-added tax (VAT), for Class 1 vehicles, particularly cars and vans, and to Php54 from Php44 for Class 2 vehicles, including buses. For Class 3 vehicles including trucks, the operator intends to impose a toll of Php81 from Php66. Including VAT, Class 1 vehicles would be charged Php30 per entry, Php61 for Class 2 vehicles and Php91 for Class 3 vehicles.
Aside from NLEX and Cavitex, a toll hike petition for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) is also pending at the TRB since 2012. SCTEx operator Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) was proposing a 19-percent toll increase.
The concessionaires of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) have also requested government permission to adjust toll rates starting on New Year’s Day but later on withdrew their respective petitions.
“If the concessionaires of SLEX and STAR can do away with toll fee increases, I don’t see any reason why MNTC and CIC can’t follow their example,” Gatchalian concluded.