Another suspension on new SLEx fees sought-A A +A
Sunday, November 7, 2010
ALBAY Governor Joey Salceda asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the temporary restraining order it issued last August on the imposition of new toll rates at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx).
Salceda made the call amid the SC’s October 21 ruling upholding the validity of the contracts entered by the government with private firms for the construction, maintenance and operation of major tollways in Luzon, including Slex.
Salceda insisted on the right of expressway users for protection from “exorbitant, unconscionable and shocking” toll rates.
“Such duty is part of the functions of the government under its police power. It is not supposed to be the subject of the commerce of man. But in this case, the Toll Regulatory Board subjected the government function to a private contractual transaction and contracted the welfare of the people,” said Salceda in his pleading.
Last October 21, the SC lifted the TRO it issued last August 13 against the implementation of the toll increase at the SLEx.
The decision was based on the Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement (STOA) signed by the government and its joint venture partners in 2006.
All petitions against the STOAs covering all expressways were discussed in the decision except the one filed by Salceda.
Salceda’s petition sought to nullify certain provisions in the STOA for the rehabilitation of SLEx and the expansion projects carried by the South Luzon Tollway Corporation (SLTC).
SLTC is a joint venture of the state-owned Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC), the Malaysian firm MTD Capital Berhad, and the Manila Toll Expressway Systems Inc. (Mates)
The SLTC is a Malaysian private investor under the STOA while Mates is a government-owned corporation designated as the operations and maintenance firm.
The STOA defined the scope of the road project coverage, terminal date of the concession and includes provisions on initial toll rates and a built-in formula for adjustment of toll charges.
Salceda said the public cannot expect TRB to change the rate previously fixed in the STOA “as a matter of contractual obligation.”
“If the argument of the TRB is to be followed, the motoring public is supposed to file a petition for review for the TRB to evaluate what it has already committed as a matter of contractual obligation,” he said.
The SC earlier consolidated the petition filed by Salceda and lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr., since the two suits both questioned the SLEx toll hike.
The TRB earlier approved the new fees, which were increased by 250-percent based on the STOA for the rehabilitation, widening and expansion of SLEX.
The agreement was entered into by the government, through the TRB, with SLTC, which holds the 25-year concession on the 30-kilometer SLEX.
Under the new rates, class 1 vehicles, which pay P22 from Alabang to Calamba, Laguna, will now have to pay P77 for the same stretch. Class 2 (buses), which formerly pay P43, will now have to pay P150, while Class 3 (heavy trucks), which pays P65, now has to pay P232. (JCV/Sunnex)