MANILA, Philippines – The toll road project connecting the North and South Luzon expressways faces further delays due to legal issues raised by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
In a 68-page letter issued by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to Transportation Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla, she questioned the legality of the joint venture between Metro Pacific Investments Corp.’s (MPIC) Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corp. (MPTDC) and state-run Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC).
De Lima said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board's approval of the joint venture “appears to have been issued beyond its powers, and without factual basis or justification.”
She said that even if the proposal proceeds in accordance with the scheme under NEDA Board’s amended approval, all government agencies, bodies and officials are constitutionally and statutorily required to ensure that such proposals do not merely offer advantageous terms from a business perspective.
The justice secretary added that it will go against good governance to convert an unsolicited proposal into another mode of implementation by entering a joint venture between the Unsolicited Proponent and the PNCC.
“Thus, any perception that piggybacking on the franchise of PNCC would, in any way, allow the unsolicited proposal of MPTDC to evade or circumvent the Swiss Challenge requirement or would allow it to obtain the contract without competitive challenge, is erroneous,” said De Lima.
The NEDA Board approved the amendment or extension of an existing joint venture between MPTDC and PNCC based on the recommendation of Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya.
MPTDC president Ramoncito Fernandez, meanwhile, said the company is open to subjecting its unsolicited connector road project proposal to a “Swiss Challenge.”
“If you ask me, I believe it should be shorter than six months. It’s just a revival of what was stopped last year. We are now studying our options whether to go back to unsolicited or not, because we have retained that right until we are awarded a contract,” Fernandez said.
The P18 billion NLEX-SLEX connector road project was originally submitted to the Department of Public Works and Highways in May 2010 under the Build-Operate-Transfer Law.
NLEX will be linked to the common alignment at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa to the P26.5 billion Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 project of San Miguel Corp.
Abaya said the government is continuing to find solutions to speed up the project’s implementation.
“Our primary mission is to get the project implemented as soon as possible. Having lesser legal risks further facilitates the project,” he said.