Solons slam SLEX toll hike

June 21, 2010 9:48 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, June 21 — A group of lawmakers from the House of Representatives denounced on Monday and described as a "midnight highway robbery" the 250 to 270-percent increase in toll fees to be implemented at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) starting on June 30.

Led by Bayan party-list Rep. Teodoro Casino and Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, the solons urged President-elect Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III to stop the impending toll hike, saying "it is unjustified and anti-poor."

"Any toll hike approved by the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) is unconscionable as it will eventually jack up bus fares, prices of agricultural produce and some basic goods from the provinces that are transported through SLEX," said Casino.

As such, he urged the TRB and its mother agency, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), to junk the toll hike implementtion.

"As a regulatory agency, the TRB should provide service and protect the expressway users. The investor has already been guaranteed a good return of investment with the old rates at the least burden to the public. That should be enough," he said.

The SLEX has a minimum passage of 200,000 motorists daily. The increase will jack up the daily revenue collected from P8.68 million to an astounding P22.26 million.

Castelo said the impending toll fee increase to be implemented by the South Luzon Tollway Corporation (SLTC) is unjustified and it seems "they want to recover their expenses in a year's time."

"I am against it. I will file a resolution expressing the collective sentiment of lawmakers opposed in its implementation as it will be burdensome to our people," he said.

For his part, Buhay party-list Rep. Irwin Tieng said although he understands it is necessary that in order to have improved services, there is a need to increase the toll rate, but this "shouldn't be done in one full swoop."

"The increase should be done gradually," he said.

Meanwhile, 1-UTAK party-list Rep. Vigor Mendoza said he will file a petition stopping the implementation of the SLEX toll hike.

He noted that the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), a much- developed and longer and wider superhighway, only charges a P2.12 per kilometer (km) rate compared to that of SLEX which charges at P2.73 per km.

"I cannot understand the difference in pricing and the variance is too big, and I think this has to be explained to the public," said Mendoza.

The present toll from Alabang to Calamba is P22 for cars. Motorists driving Class 1 vehicles or cars, vans, and other small vehicles through Alabang in Muntinlupa City to Calamba City, Laguna will have to pay P77 from the current P21 once the new rate is implemented.

Class 2 vehicles or light trucks and buses will be charged P155, up from P43, and Class 3 vehicles or heavy and multi-wheeler trucks, P232 from P65.

TRB spokesperson Julius Corpus earlier defended the SLTC, saying "it is but only right for investors to recover on their investments after investing P11 billion on the project." (PNA) scs/LGI

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