Senator Alan Peter Cayetano urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Monday to stick to the original concept of tolls to attract more investors and boost the economy.
“The concept of tolls is that the government uses private money to fix the road, then they give you ‘X’ number of years to recover. And then afterwards, pang-maintenance na lang [ang gagastusin],” Cayetano said during the Senate plenary debate for the 2024 budget of DOTr on November 13, 2023.
According to Cayetano, some roads built with private partners can generate enough revenue to cover the investment costs. However, when contracts “metamorphose” with additional components – as it happened with the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) when Skyway was being built in the 1990s – the contract’s intent to eventually make the original road toll-free or at least cheaper is jeopardized.
“Parang piniprito rin tayo sa sarili nating mantika… na habang ginagawa y’ung sa ibabaw (Skyway), pinagkakakitaan y’ung ilalim (SLEX) na dapat patapos na,” he said.
“Whether sa ilalim ka [dumaan] ngayon or ibabaw, mas mahal yu’ng ibabaw pero mahal pa rin y’ung ilalim,” he added.
Service roads are a ‘win-win’
Turning the attention to service roads, Cayetano asked the DOTr officials present at the Senate how many parts of North Luzon Expressway (NLEX )have service roads which he said are important especially for lower-income people because they can be used without paying toll.
The DOTr officials responded that there are not many, and that the government has been improving MacArthur Road as an alternative to NLEX for many years.
“In future toll roads, dapat kasama sa kwenta ang service roads because it’s a win-win. One, it allows people na wala talagang pera to do business. Secondly, it actually develops the land beside the service road,” Cayetano suggested.
“As you develop the road beside the service road, it actually generates jobs and [will eventually] generate taxes,” he said.
Cayetano also asked the DOTr about the confidentiality of the concession agreements, underscoring the importance of transparency when it comes to computing toll fees especially when the public expresses concerns about them.
“Kung confidential ang agreement, how can we, as ordinary consumers, know na tama ang computation ng toll [fees]?,” he asked.
The independent senator concluded his concerns regarding toll roads by reiterating to the DOTr the importance of using the original concept of tolls and acquiring more investors, saying this will also allow the government to set aside more funds for other projects.
“Kung ano ang itinanim natin, ‘yun ang ating aanihin… so let’s stick to the original concept of toll. Para magamit natin ang [budget ng] DOTr sa railways, RoRo (roll-on/roll-off), ports, at airports, let’s get investors doon sa toll,” he said.
“If they want to make more money, hanap pa sila ng ibang lugar na pwede silang gumawa ng iba pang toll using their expertise para doon naman sila kumita because it’s a win-win [situation]. Habang kumikita sila, gumaganda rin ang ekonomiya,” he added.