MALOLOS CITY, Philippines – Higher toll fees will greet motorists using 3 expressways north of Manila beginning this New Year.
Higher toll rates take effect beginning January 1 at the 85-kilometer North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), the 94.5-kilometer Subic-Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), and the 8.5-kilometer Subic Freeport Expressway (SFEx).
Marlene Ochoa, vice president for corporate communications of NLEx concessionaire Manila North Tollways Corp., told The STAR that the adjusted rates are actually lower than the firm’s opening rates in 2005.
Ochoa said that on Feb.10, 2005 when the MNTC started operating the NLEx, the toll rate for class 1or light vehicles from Balintawak to Bocaue was P42.
Today, the MNTC, through its operator Tollways Management Corp. (TMC), is charging P41 for class 1 vehicles for the Balintawak-to-Bocaue stretch.
After the Bocaue interchange, the TMC charges northbound class 1 vehicles P2.38 per kilometer up to Tarlac in the SCTEx and westward to Subic through the SFEx.
The MNTC was recently awarded the concession for the SCTEx and the SFEx, but actual turnover of the concessions will be within the first quarter of the year.
Ochoa said that their current per kilometer charge in their closed system is still lower that the P2.48 charge they implemented after February 2005.
“The Toll Regulatory Board gave us the provisional authority to implement new toll rates, but public hearings continue,” she said.
Various parties are contesting the rate hikes before the courts.
“We call it toll adjustment instead of a toll hike,” Benigno Valles, TMC senior manager for corporate communication, said.
He said that on Jan. 1, 2007, toll fees at the NLEx were reduced by P2.20 per kilometer and later by another P2.13 per kilometer on July 1, 2008. This translated to P36 charge for class 1 vehicles in the NLEx from Balintawak to Bocaue.
From the previous P2.13 per kilometer charges, the TMC now charges P2.38 per kilometer.
This means that class 1 vehicles traveling between Balintawak and Bocaue interchange will have to pay P41, up from P36.
Valles stressed that the P41 new toll fee is lower than the P42 opening rates.
Ochoa assured motorists that the additional toll fees would redound to their benefit.
She said that since taking over NLEx operations in 2005, MNTC and TMC have implemented a number of improvements on the road system, including installation of closed circuit television cameras along the 85-kilometer stretch of the expressway for round-the-clock monitoring of traffic flow.
The TMC has also improved the condition of the expressways by removing potholes and cracks.
Valles said Korean and Japanese road experts have vouched for the high quality of NLEx, saying they are at par with those in Japan and South Korea.
Bus fare hike pushed
Meanwhile, bus companies operating between Metro Manila and South Luzon provinces are pushing for 30 to 50 centavos per kilometer hike in fares, citing the 250% increase in toll fees as well as the steady climb in oil prices.
Homer Mercado of the United Transport Koalisyon (1-Utak) transport party-list group said they are preparing to file a rate hike petition with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.
“We have to raise our fare to survive,” Mercado told The STAR in a phone interview.
“We’re thinking of asking for 30 centavos to 50 centavos...within that range but most likely, we’ll ask for 50 (centavos),” Mercado said.
Currently, Mercado said the fare rate per kilometer is P1.30. If allowed to raise fares by 30 centavos per kilometer, ordinary bus fare between Calamba and Manila would be at P80 from the current P65. For air-conditioned buses, the fare would be P95 from the current P80.
With a 50-centavo hike, ordinary bus fare from Manila to Calamba will rise from P65 to P90 and from P80 to P105 for air-conditioned buses.
The Big 3 oil companies – Chevron Philippines, Pilipinas Shell and Petron – raised the pump prices of their products last Wednesday by P1 per liter.