Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. will spend about P40 billion on infrastructure projects this year.
Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of Metro Pacific Tollways — formerly First Philippine Infrastructure, Inc. — said P2.1 billion would be spent for the construction of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX)-Segment 8.1, which will link it to the C-5 Road.
Construction will start in March and the project is expected to be completed by April 2010.
The NLEX Segment 8.1 is a two-lane, 2.7-kilometer expressway that will link Mindanao Ave. to the NLEX.
Based on the plan, a toll plaza will be built on Mindanao Ave. where motorists can enter and exit the NLEX, effectively easing traffic congestion on the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) Balintawak.
Mr. Pangilinan said around P20 billion would be spent on the road that will link the North and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).
He also said the amount was just an estimate and could still go up or down once a prefeasibility study is finished.
"That’s the initial estimate, but I think in the course of the feasiblity phase, we are going to have a full idea [of how much we really need]," he told reporters on the sidelines of a special stockholders’ meeting yesterday.
"The detailed study will require a bit more time since it is something we really need to do to reduce travel time between the NLEX and SLEX," he said.
Mr. Pangilinan said the estimated travel time via this tollway would be only 15 minutes from the present one hour when one travels through EDSA or C-5.
He said the Philippine National Railways (PNR) is seeking to build a railroad track either in the middle of the railway or on the side, so that it could develop a commuter train service between the NLEX all the way to Calamba.
"It’s going to be a long-term project and will be rolled out in two to three years," Mr. Pangilinan said.
Last month, Metro Pacific Tollways and state-owned PNR signed a deal to conduct a prefeasibility study that will link the NLEX and SLEX by road and rail. The link will be an integrated rail and tollway project using the PNR’s right of way, which cuts across Metro Manila.
Initial discussions focused on the development of an 18-kilometer integrated rail and tollway project that will have "at-grade" and elevated roads over the existing PNR line.
The project is an alternative to various plans to link the two tollways. Other alternatives include the government’s P420-million plan of building a flyover that will connect the C-5 Road to Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City, so that vehicles from the SLEX do not have to deal with traffic on EDSA to get to the NLEX.
Another plan, worth P55 billion, is to extend the Skyway from Parañaque to Balintawak in Quezon City.
Aside from the two projects, Mr. Pangilinan said they hope to start with their Tarlac-La Union Toll Expressway project this year.
"It is still in the early stages of discussion. The objective is to start within the year even if [we would only able to secure] the right of way," he added.
The project cost, he said, is about P15 billion, half of which would be raised by borrowing from the public.
The 10-member consortium, composed of big players in the local construction industry, will oversee the design, construction, financing and operations of the 88.5-kilometer expressway project.
The Tarlac-La Union Expressway will extend from La Paz, Tarlac to Rosario, La Union, which is expected to lessen the travel time between Central and Northern Luzon.
Tarlac-La Union Expressway will have eight interchanges, nine toll plazas, two operating buildings, 20 bridges, two viaducts, 26 overpasses and three farm crossings.
Partial operations will start in January 2010 for the Tarlac-Carmen section, in January 2011 for the Carmen-Urdaneta stretch, and in March 2013 for the Urdaneta-Rosario segment.
Mr. Pangilinan entered the tollway business last year when his holding firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. bought First Philippine Infrastructure from the Lopez family for more than P12 billion, giving the holding company two-thirds of the North Luzon tollway concession, and the Manila North Tollways Corp.
In a special stockholders’ meeting yesterday, minority shareholders of First Philippine Infrastructure approved the change in name of the company to Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. to reflect the new ownership.