Multisectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) today criticized the planned 333 percent increase in toll rates by the private operator of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).
Calling the proposed hike “outrageous”, the group said that SLEX operator Manila Toll Expressway Systems Inc. (Mates) should not be entitled to any toll increase because of its inefficiency which has caused perpetually long hours of traffic congestion along the 30-kilometer toll road.
Bayan also pointed out that the planned increase in toll rates will further drain the pockets of motorists and commuters who are already forced to shell out additional money due to the recent imposition of the 12 percent value added tax (VAT) on tolls. There are pending proposals as well to increase the rates to 15 percent to address the burgeoning budget deficit.
On Monday, Mates announced that it has asked the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) to allow the private operator to jack up its rates from the current 82 centavos to P3.55 per kilometer. SLEX fees last increased in December 2008.
“It’s like rewarding and promoting inefficiency if the TRB will agree to the petition of Mates. This is unacceptable for the public, especially those who are forced to endure long hours of traffic jam along SLEX. Instead of a reward, the operator should even be penalized through toll discounts,” Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes said as he noted how the delayed repairs along SLEX created intolerable traffic gridlock along the tollway.
Reyes added that aside from giving headache to motorists and commuters, the usually heavy traffic along SLEX also undermine economic activity and productivity. “Regulators should consider not only what Mates claims it needs to recover from the public works it did on SLEX. It should factor in the un-quantified losses arising from workers and goods getting unduly stuck in heavy traffic because the operator is not doing its job properly”, said Reyes.
Mates earlier said that it will spend about P8.5 billion for repair and expansion works along the SLEX, which it needs to recoup through a toll hike.
Bayan blamed government’s policy of privatizing infrastructure development and operation for the exorbitant rates that face tollway users. State-owned Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC) used to operate the SLEX concession until regulators transferred the authority to operate the said tollway to Mates in November last year.
Infrastructure plays a major role in making the economy viable and able to provide for its people. “Despite its importance to development, however, infrastructure has been the favorite sector up for privatization by the national government”, Reyes noted.
Privatized infrastructure has introduced the economics of user-fees that require people to fully shoulder the costs of building and maintaining the infrastructure. “It is the responsibility of government to provide reliable and high quality roads and highways because they are a strategic aspect of economic and social development”, Reyes pointed out.
Bayan challenged apparent President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to make concrete commitments on how his administration intends to ease the people’s burden from ever increasing costs and onerous taxes such as in the case of SLEX . Bulatlat.com