MAKATI CITY – Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) Chairman Manuel Pangilinan is planning to connect the two major expressways in Central Luzon and the P62.67- billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway (Calax) project to decongest Metro Manila.

Pangilinan bared his plan after the Aquino administration formally handed over last week to infrastructure giant MPIC a Notice of Award for the 47-kilometer Calax, which will connect Cavite and Laguna.

The two progressive provinces are at Calabarzon and Cavite is at the southern portion of Metro Manila, which hosts 15 cities and one municipality. A recent study showed that the country loses P2.4 billion a day in potential income from the traffic woes in Metro Manila alone.

"A truck is not supposed to be in the city," said Pangilinan, stressing his plan to divert light and cargo trucks and other vehicles from passing to congested areas in Metro Manila. His specific targets are huge vehicles travelling from the Freeport Zones in Pampanga, Zambales and Bataan en route to Laguna and Cavite or vice versa.

Decongest Metro Manila

In December 2013, The Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (PamCham) led by Chairman Emeritus Levy Laus launched the advocacy to "Decongest Metro Manila for our Country's Sake" following the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Central Visayas.

Laus cited a study of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) noting the imminent movement of the West Valley Fault that can trigger a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila, the centre of business and finance, the hub of investments, and the seat of government in the country.

Pangilinan has yet to disclose the specific plans on how to connect the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) in Pampanga and Bulacan and the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) in Zambales and Bataan to the soon-to-be-constructed Calax.

The end portion of NLEx in Balintawak, Quezon City is about 40 kilometers from Kawit, Cavite, where the Calax project will start. It will end at the South Luzon Expressway-Mamplasan Interchange in Biñan, Laguna, the Department of Public Works (DPWH) said in a statement.

Pangilinan earlier aggressively started to construct NLEX "connector roads" in Quezon City and Valenzuela City.

In January 2014, the Manila North Tollways Development Corporation (MNTDC), also chaired by Pangilinan, started the construction of the 18-kilometer road that will the connect the NLEx exit in Valenzuela City to Sta. Mesa, Manila. Pangilinan's group is infusing P32 billion for the ongoing project which is expected to completed in 2016.

Pangilinan pushed the project to provide "endless" entry of goods to the cargo ports in Manila, most of which are coming from the Subic, Clark and the sea port in Sta. Ana, Cagayan.

In February 2015, the government allowed the integration of the NLEx and SCTEx. Both expressways are operated by the Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC), a subsidiary of the MPIC. Travelling time to the Clark Freeport in Pampanga and the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales is about 30 minutes via the 94-kilometer SCTEx.

The SCTEx's annual traffic is estimated at 30.8 million for 2014, up from 9.3 million when it opened in 2008. The 86.7-kilometer NLEx has at least 184,000 average daily users. (Joey Pavia/Contributor)