North Luzon east toll road revived
The North Luzon East Expressway (NLEEx) project, an unsolicited toll road placed on hold during President Aquino’s administration, has been revived and is set to start construction in a few months.
The entire project, backed by Ausphil Tollways Corp., involves a roughly 90-kilometer expressway that will link Quezon City in Metro Manila to Cabanatuan. Upon completion, the P15-billion project will cut travel time between the capital district and Cabanatuan to under an hour from the current three to four hours, Ausphil CEO Ricardo L. Penson said in an interview.
The P7.8-bilion first phase will be an 18-km stretch from Commonwealth-La Mesa to Norzagaray in Bulacan, he said.
“We expect groundbreaking in a couple of months,” Penson said, adding that this phase would take two years to complete.
The initial phase was awarded to Ausphil during the time of President Arroyo. When Mr. Aquino took over in 2010, it was placed under review and eventually shelved. Fortunes changed with the entry of President Duterte. Penson said Mr. Duterte, a former schoolmate in San Beda College, recognized the potential of the NLEEx.
“I always believed my project can stand on its own merits, it should not be politicized,” he said.
He said Ausphil remained under his control via his personal company, Penson and Co. Inc. He added that conglomerate San Miguel Corp. owns a 15-percent stake.
Once opened, Penson said the toll road was expected to serve 75,000 vehicles a day. What set it apart from other toll roads were its water collection and hydroelectric components.
The NLEEx will be capable of generating water for La Mesa dam, equivalent to about 10 to 12 days of emergency water supply for Metro Manila. In addition, its hydroelectric plant can generate 35 megawatts of power, Penson said.
Within this year, Penson said his group was anticipating the competitive challenge for the second phase of NLEEx. This will extend the toll road further to Cabanatuan.
Under the government’s procurement rules, unsolicited projects, once approved, will be opened up to rival bidders. If another bidder submits a better offer, the original proponent, which in this case is Ausphil, has the right to match those terms and still win the project.
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