SMC rejects 'unwarranted' call to cut SLEX toll amid ongoing construction

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SMC's Skyway Extension Project

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 4) — San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has declined the proposal of a Toll Regulatory Board official to cut toll fees for vehicles that ply the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) due to traffic caused by its ongoing construction of the Skyway Extension project.

SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang said the proposal of TRB private sector representative Raymundo Junia to cut the toll fee from Susana Heights to Sucat Road from ₱49 to ₱44 was ill-advised.

Ang has admitted and apologized for the heavy traffic that stretched to 19 kilometers when the construction started on September 25. But he argued that traffic went back to normal the next day. He said that even before the construction, traffic jams are a perennial problem along SLEX.

"If what Junia is saying is that the daily traffic is caused by construction — and that we have to give a discount because of this — then we feel it is unwarranted. The traffic has always been there," he said in a statement sent to CNN Philippines on Monday.

The suggestion was made following the worse-than-normal traffic jam that surprised those from the south who wanted to enter Metro Manila. Apart from Junia, Senator Grace Poe and Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones made similar calls to reduce the toll fees at SLEX.

The businessman warned that granting the proposal will do more harm that good in the long run for the motorists and the country — considering this administration's push for big-ticket infrastructure projects.

“First, suspending toll fees will violate our concession agreement, and worse, damage our standing with the banks. In our loan covenants, there are stipulations about earning back the money we borrowed to build or improve our infrastructure. If banks see that government can just stop honoring concession contracts, they will also stop lending to local companies. Investor confidence will go down,” he said.

Ang added, "If you suspend toll fees, that will not really bring relief. It will make the problem worse. More vehicles will flood the expressways, and nobody will be happy because of the increasing congestion."

SMC said the 4-kilometer Skyway Extension will add capacity for 4,500 vehicles per hour on the northbound side and 3,000 more vehicles per hour on the southbound section. It said the project will make travel faster and easier as motorists will be able to bypass the Alabang viaduct and even EDSA, if they’re headed to either NAIA, Makati, Manila, and Quezon City. The Skyway extension ramp is set to be finished by end-2020.