By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
SAN MIGUEL CORP. (SMC) on Tuesday said the Skyway Stage 3 will remain open, after a “misunderstanding” with the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) over the latter’s supposed directive to close the expressway to motorists until it is completed.
“Skyway 3 will remain open,” SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang said in a statement.
This after the SMC unit, Skyway O&M Corp., on Monday evening said the Skyway 3 will be closed indefinitely until all ramps are completed “in accordance with the TRB directive.”
The TRB, which includes representatives from the departments of Transportation (DoTr), Finance, Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and National Economic and Development Authority, said in a joint statement on Tuesday that it “did not issue a decision or directive ordering the indefinite closure of the Skyway Stage 3.”
The regulator said its position is to keep the new expressway “open for the benefit of all motorists.”
Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said the TRB would “definitely not” issue a directive for the Skyway 3’s closure.
“Basically, TRB is insisting that Skyway 3 cannot start full operations and collect toll until all ramps are 100% complete,” Mr. Ang said, as he criticized the TRB’s inaction on the issuance of a toll operation permit.
“Our supplemental toll operation agreement states that we can start collecting at 95% completion — we are now 97% complete,” he said.
Mr. Ang said the company needs to start collecting toll fees for daily maintenance and operations of Skyway 3, which are estimated at P10 billion a year.
“As Skyway 3’s losses have been mounting because TRB keeps delaying the start of toll collection, the quickest way for our infrastructure unit to speed up 100% completion of the ramps would have been to close Skyway 3,” he added.
Mr. Ang said he brought up the issue with Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, who “understands” the company’s predicament.
The company fully funded the P80-billion cost for Skyway 3, which has allowed motorists to use it for free since it opened on Dec. 29.
Skyway 3’s operator asked the TRB in January to allow it to start collecting fees ranging from P110 to P274.
It only expects to generate P4 billion in annual revenues based on its proposed toll rate and the 60,000 vehicle per day volume.
However, a source from the TRB said the DPWH wants Mr. Ang’s SMC to justify its proposed toll rate, and questioned SMC’s claim the project is already 97% complete.
A DPWH source said SMC was also asked to present a detailed breakdown of the project’s construction cost that would justify the proposed rate.
Skyway Stage 3 links the South Luzon Expressway in Alabang to North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak.
SMC shares closed 2.002% lower at P117.50 apiece on Tuesday.