No last-minute glitches seen in SCTEX turnover

By Mary Ann LL. Reyes, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 18 2011 07:13 AM | Updated as of Jul 18 2011 03:13 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Metro Pacific group expects no last-minute glitches in the final turnover of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to the Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC).

Metro Pacific group chairman Manuel Pangilinan told The STAR that following the signing of the revised business and operations agreement between BCDA and MNTC, what remains now is for the agreement to be approved by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC), the Office of the President, and then the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB).

“We expect the turnover to us to happen very soon,” Pangilinan, who chairs Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MNTC) and its subsidiary MNTC, said in an interview.

For his part, MNTC president Ramoncito Fernandez said that the new agreement already addresses all the concerns raised by the different government agencies.

Under the revised agreement, MNTC will operate and manage SCTEX for 33 years, while relieving BCDA of the heavy financial burden of paying the latter’s debt to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The JICA loan used to construct SCTEX will mature in 2041.

The original agreement was for MNTC to operate and manage the tollroad for 25 years, renewable for another eight years.

BCDA officials said that true to the original intent of the agreement, BCDA is provided sufficient funds to repay its JICA loan through revenue sharing and agreed-on advances during shortfalls. The agreement satisfies BCDA’s requirement to cover the state firm’s debt service obligation to JICA.

“This agreement reflects the re-affirmation of our alliance with BCDA in running SCTEX, and reiterates our Group’s commitment to support the PPP program of the government,” Pangilinan earlier said.

Once MNTC officially takes over the SCTEX, the company plans to integrate SCTEX with the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) will be put in motion. This will result in a seamless travel experience for motorists.

As SCTEX co-concessionaire, MNTC will have overall management of the entire operations and supervision of the tollway, linking Subic Freeport Zone in Zambales, Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga, and the Central Techno Park in Tarlac.

The former BCDA management virtually cancelled the contract with MNTC due to the latter’s alleged failure to comply with at least eight conditionalities, setting into motion the renegotiation between the company and the new BCDA management led by chairman Felicito Payumo.

BCDA president Arnel Casanova earlier explained to The STAR that the original contract between BCDA and MNTC provides that the latter will pay for the Japanese loan contracted by the BCDA and used to build the expressway only for the first five years of the contract.

“After five years, the contract provides that we get 20% and they get 80%. But what if the BCDA’s 20% share is not even enough to pay for the Japanese loan? What we want is for MNTC to pay for any shortfall over the duration of our paying for the loan so that eventually, it will be the users of the tollway, not the taxpayers who will pay,” he said.