After a protracted battle for control of power utility giant Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), two of the country’s biggest conglomerates have both expressed interest in acquiring a stake in the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) from the state-run Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA).
BCDA sources told The STAR that the Metro Pacific Group – which have ownership ties with Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) – and San Miguel Corp. have proposed separate offers for the SCTEX stake.
BCDA financed the construction of the 93.77 kilometer toll road through a P22-billion loan from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JICA).
Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan confirmed his group’s interest in acquiring government’s interest in the project, as well as his desire that the JICA concessional loan remain.
BCDA officials said they are always open to the possibility of the sale of SCTEX but added they are not sure how that would impact on the JICA loan.
Meanwhile, the San Miguel group reportedly offered to enter into a joint venture with the BCDA for SCTEX.
The Tollways Management Corp. (TMC), partly owned by MPTC, currently operates the SCTEX as well as the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).
The Lopez Group earlier sold its toll road business held in First Philippine Infrastructure Inc. (FPII) to Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC) for P12.2 billion. MPIC has renamed FPII into MPTC.
FPII owns 100 percent of First Philippine Infrastructure Development Corp. (FPIDC), which, in turn, owns 67.1 percent of NLEX concessionaire Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) and 46 percent of TMC.
SCTEX is the country’s longest toll road. A flagship project of BCDA, this four-lane expressway runs through the provinces of Bataan, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales, and interconnects three major economic zones in Central Luzon, namely Central Techno Park in Tarlac, Clark Freeport Zone and Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
BCDA has inaugurated early this yearthe Clark Logistics Interchange and Clark South Interchange, bringing to a total of nine the fully operational interchanges.
Two more interchanges, Floridablanca and Porac, are under construction and are scheduled to be finished soon. Supplemental loans from Japan would fund the construction of the Floridablanca and Porac interchanges.
Pangilinan said P2.1 billion would be spent for the construction of the NLEX-Segment 8.1, which will link it to the C-5 Road. The project is expected to be completed by April 2010.
Meanwhile, Pangilinan said around P20 billion would be spent on the road that will link the NLEX and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).
MPTC and state-owned Philippine National Railways (PNR) earlier signed a deal to conduct a pre-feasibility study 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 no longer 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, 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, and is expected to lessen the travel time between Central and Northern Luzon.
The 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.
BILLBOARD BAN IN SCTEX
Meanwhile, the move to ban commercial billboards along the SCTEx is gaining support from users of Facebook, a popular social-networking site online. To date, 157 Facebook users have joined the cause to preserve the scenery along the SCTEx and “save the virgin countryside from commercialism"