Finally, some clarity on the burning issue of the moment.
SMC Corporation president Ramon Ang said that the Skyway's closure is needed to speed up the completion of its ramps at the Skyway 3 portion. This is in light of the Toll Regulatory Board's refusal of the start of toll collection at the Skyway Stage 3 while construction isn't complete.
The SMC head the revelation following the confusion on the earlier announcement that the major connector road will be closed indefinitely.
“Basically, TRB is insisting that Skyway 3 cannot start full operations and collect toll until all ramps are 100% complete. Our supplemental toll operation agreement states that we can start collecting at 95% completion—we are now 97% complete,” Ang said.
“We need sufficient funds for the toll road’s daily maintenance, proper long-term upkeep and to keep it safe and efficient for the motoring public. As Skyway 3’s losses have been mounting because TRB keeps delaying the start of toll collection, the quickest way for our infrastructure unit to speed up 100% completion of the ramps would have been to close Skyway 3,” he added.
According to the SMC executive, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Sec. Arthur Tugade “understands their predicament,” citing that Skyway 3 was built at no cost to government.
“SMC fully-funded the over P80 billion cost to build it. After years of hard work, we opened it last December 29 so we can start serving the public for free, for a reasonable amount of time," he noted.
"We have also made a lot of concessions—including lowering toll fees—in the interest of the public. Also, Skyway 3 is new, but heavy everyday use causes it to deteriorate if not maintained properly. We spend a lot for its upkeep, and at the same time lose a lot in foregone revenues. We cannot operate this and serve people if the project is not generating revenues,” Ang expounded.
Further, the SMC noted the cost in putting up the Skyway Stage 3 significantly increased with challenges following the acquisition of right-of-way leading to major redesigns, realignments, reconstructing which raised costs and extended the construction across two government administrations.
Ang said SMC paid for all right-of-way costs, including paying of properties at prevailing market value to ramp up the completion, shouldered the cost to relocate utilities, and the reconstruction of three bridges.
Moreover, Ang said that they have also revised the original proposed fare matrix to significantly lower toll rates so as not to carry the burden of high toll rates.
“In good faith, during our earlier discussions with TRB, we lowered the proposed toll rates significantly. Basically, we took out and deferred collection of most of the cost of right-of-way acquisition. After that, we lowered the rates even further, so that people travelling short distances would pay much less,” Ang said.
Furthermore, Ang explained that at a cost of P10 billion per year to operate the toll road, it is expected to only generate a significantly lower revenue of P4 billion per year based on its proposed toll rate and the existing 60,000 daily volume of vehicles.
“Basically, we have done everything to make sure we can viably operate Skyway 3 right away, so we can serve motorists and fulfill our goal, which is to lessen traffic in Metro Manila and hopefully, through better connectivity, create more jobs and economic opportunities for more Filipinos. This is really a team effort, and we need to work together for our country succeed,” Ang said.
“Skyway 3 will remain open,” he declared, saying that he has relayed the same message commitment to Sec. Tugade who, in turn, committed to act upon the company’s concerns with urgency and prudence.
All’s well that ends well?
Photos from Ruben D. Manahan IV, San Miguel Corporation