MV Pangilinan’s connector road faces further delay
MANILA, Philippines–The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is closing off a joint-venture option with Manuel V. Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. for the latter’s proposed P18-billion Metro Manila “connector road” in a move that will further delay the project that is already a year behind schedule.
Another legal review conducted over the last few months by the government resulted in a decision that the 8-kilometer elevated toll road, aimed at easing congestion in the capital district and increasing access to the port area in Manila, should revert again to an unsolicited proposal.
That move, however, would require a Swiss or competitive challenge as well as another approval from the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), resulting in more time lost before construction can begin.
“We will propose to Neda to go back to the original unsolicited proposal with Swiss challenge,” Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said in a text message last week. He cited a Department of Justice opinion last July questioning the joint-venture route between Metro Pacific and the state-run Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC).
For the tollroad, it could mean at least six months before construction can start late next year, according to Rodrigo Franco, president of Manila North Tollways Corp., the subsidiary of Metro Pacific Tollways that operates North Luzon Expressway.
A Swiss challenge in this case means other groups will be allowed to submit offers to build the connector road that seeks to link NLEx and the South Luzon Expressway, bypassing traffic-choked roads within Metro Manila. Under the rules, Metro Pacific has the right to match rival offers to finally win the project.
“We have been advised by DPWH that they are headed toward recommending it [connector road] as an unsolicited proposal,” Franco said in a separate interview.
Franco noted that because the process could add another “six to seven months” before construction could begin, he expected the connector road to be completed in late 2017 to early 2018. Originally, the group was hoping to complete the tollroad before President Aquino steps down in mid-2016.
The delays in this tollroad are mainly because of disagreements within the government on how the project structure should be implemented.
The connector road, which is expected to start at the C-3 road in Caloocan City and end in PUP Sta. Mesa in Manila, was initially submitted as an unsolicited proposal during the previous administration.
Then the transportation department last year pushed for a supposedly faster route—via a joint venture with PNCC, which holds the franchise for both NLEx and SLEx.
Metro Pacific agreed since a similar structure was implemented for the 14.8-km Skyway Stage 3 “connector tollroad” of San Miguel Corp. and Indonesia’s Citra Group. Skyway Stage 3 started construction this year and could be finished as early as 2016.
The joint venture proposal with PNCC ran into trouble after the Department of Justice on July 7 said that the Neda Board’s decision to approve this structure “appears to have been issued beyond its powers and without factual basis or justification.”
It took several more months for the government to confirm that it would not recommend proceeding with the joint-venture option, leading to the present direction of the DPWH.
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