THE Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) clarified that the near 10-percent increase in the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (Star) will be implemented starting today, Saturday.

In an interview with Sun.Star, TRB spokesman Julius Corpuz said Tuesday's deferment was only applied to the 250-percent hike in toll fees at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx).

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"The temporary increase will take effect on July 10. In fact, Star toll way representatives just met the Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Batangas Thursday as arranged by Governor Vilma Santos-Recto," he said.

He added that no one opposed to the move after the Star explained the basis of the increase of around eight to nine percent.

Corpuz explained that the minimal increase is due to the road improvement project under Star Infrastructure Development Corp. (SIDC).

"The road improvements were done as requested by the local government units and the Department of Public Works and Highways so that it could benefit the economic activity of the surrounding communities," he said.

With this, the new rates from Sto. Tomas to Batangas City are: P60 (from P55) for Class 1, P120 (from P109) for Class 2, and P179 (from P164) for Class 3 vehicles.

The 42-kilometer Apolinario Mabini Superhighway (formerly Star) is a highway traversing the Southern Luzon provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon.

The highway will soon be connected to the 97-km SLEx through an 8-km loop from Calamba, Laguna to Sto.Tomas, Batangas.

On July 5, Malaysian investors of the South Luzon Tollway Corp. (SLTC) agreed to postpone the implementation of toll increases due to public pressure.

Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Jose de Jesus also ordered the SLTC to conduct information campaigns on the increases, which already earned the ire of eight groups asking the TRB to junk the toll hike.

The twin hikes should have been implemented last June 30 but the operators backtracked to give way for President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's inauguration.

No schedule on hearings

As this developed, Corpuz related that the TRB could not yet tackle the said petitions due to the lack of members.

"We have no schedule yet on public hearing. The board has yet to receive the names of the new representatives in the TRB," he said.

The TRB is composed of De Jesus as chairman, with representatives from Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), National Economic Development Authority (Neda), Department of Finance (DOF) and from the private sector as members.

The hearing was originally set on July 15. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)