South Luzon Tollway Corp. (SLTC) has formally objected to the decision of the Department of Public Works and Highways to allow last-minute changes in the design of the Daang Hari road project without securing the approval of all involved parties.
In a letter to Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, the operator of the South Luzon Expressway said it had agreed to the original design of the 4-kilometer tollroad, but was surprised to find out that recent revisions proposed by the winning bidder—Ayala Corp.—was given more weight by the department over SLTC’s guaranteed right to widen SLEx.
SLTC said it was “surprised” that the department had adopted the technical justifications of the Daang Hari winning bidder, which did not accept the original roundabout design of the DPWH.
“We are at a loss as to why the DPWH is now asserting that the DPWH rotunda design ‘does not meet the minimum performance standards and specifications’ for the Daang Hari Road project,” SLTC said in its letter to Singson.
The Daang Hari connector road is the first project awarded under the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program. It is meant to help decongest vehicular traffic in southern Metro Manila by connecting the parallel SLEx and Daang Hari roadways. The right to build and operate it was won by Ayala Corp. with a bid of P902 million in December 2011, but work has not commenced on the project due to disagreements over the road’s design.
In SLTC’s letter to Singson, the company said the old rotunda design was the very same one used by the DPWH when the project was bid out last year.
“We assume that in asking the potential investors to bid based on the rotunda design, the DPWH had represented that the design met the minimum performance standards and specifications that the DPWH had set for the said project,” SLTC said.
SLTC pointed out that its own Supplemental Toll Concession Agreement entered into with the government when it rebuilt SLEx a decade ago guaranteed it the right to expand the toll road by adding more lanes.
DPWH’s unilateral decision to accept Ayala’s redesign will prevent it from expanding SLEx, which at present, is already nearing maximum capacity due to the growth in vehicular traffic, SLTC said.
SLTC issued a “no objection” letter to this design, but later withdrew it when it learned that DPWH approved a revised Ayala plan which would prevent SLTC from expanding SLEx by adding lanes to accommodate growing vehicular traffic.
The company reiterated that the design changes were “effected without consulting with SLTC, or obtaining its consent thereto, in complete disregard of the latter’s 23 September 2011 ‘no objection’ conditions.”
Under the proposed changes, DPWH will have to underwrite as much as P500 million for the so-called “variation order” after it accepted the design materially different from the original roundabout design.
SLTC reminded the DPWH that the company had acquired a 60-meter right-of-way space, as required by the department, precisely to allow for future expansion of the road. The new design will affect the right of way.
“It is therefore unwise, from an engineering, economic and political standpoint, to limit the right of way of SLEx and thus remove or prevent the possibility of widening SLEx, particularly the section between Filinvest and Susana Heights, which is currently used by more than 150,000 passenger cars daily, only to benefit a much smaller number of vehicles that will use the Daang Hari Road,” SLTC argued.