“The ones who should be working on these are not even talking to each other. In fact, it seems that no one among the expected implementers was even listening to the President’s SONA!”
by Ducky Paredes
In his third State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino made a few promises.
Among them was this one: “This June, the LRT Line 1 Cavite Extension project began to move forward. When completed, it will alleviate traffic in Las Piñas, Parañaque, and Cavite.
“In addition to this, in order to further improve traffic in Metro Manila, there will be two elevated roads directly connecting the North Luzon and South Luzon Expressways. These will be completed in 2015 and will reduce travel time between Clark and Calamba to 1 hour and 40 minutes.”
The way it looks right now, however, while the President can probably get LRT Line extended all the way to Cavite, one has to seriously doubt if he can get the “two elevated roads connecting the North Luzon and South Luzon Expressways.”
Why? Simple. The ones who should be working on these are not even talking to each other. In fact, it seems that no one among the expected implementers was even listening to the President’s SONA!
Clearly, if they want to see this done, Secretary Mar Roxas of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to which the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) is an attached agency and TRB Executive Director, former Marinduque Congressman Edmundo O. Reyes, Jr. and the Secretary of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Rogelio Singson, the main builder of infrastructure for government, ought to be sitting together to get this done.
Obviously, the President has more than done his part. He had talked to the two companies that control the two expressways that would be connected. The South Luzon Expressway is managed by Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp. which is controlled by San Miguel Corporation headed by Ramon Ang. The North Luzon Expressway is managed by Metro Pacific Investments Corp, which is managed by Manny Pangilinan. The President got both to agree that each would build their half of the connection and they would start on this before the end of 2012, precisely to get tis done by 2015.
In fact, Mar Roxas held a press conference in May at which he announced this agreement. So, why has nothing happened yet, one month after the SONA?
Possibly unknown to the President, the Department of Justice (DOJ), another Cabinet Office also reporting to the President, had earlier furnished TRB’s Edmundo Reyes, Jr., its opinion that the TRB’s power to regulate toll roads included the design and the actual construction of the infrastructure. In other words, according to the DOJ, it was not the DPWH that would do this. It must be the TRB!
Where does this put the President — and his Cabinet Secretaries? Apparently, Reyes has already told Citra Metro Manila Tollways to proceed with the design and the actual work on the NLEX-SLEX connection which CITRA will apparently be managing since clearly, (from the way things look at the moment) the TRB will give this new tollway exclusively to Citra.
Right now, Secretary Singson is doing what he can to give back to his department the supervision and construction of this vital new road. After all, if the DPWH will not be building our roads, what is his department left to do?
Honestly, I don’t give one whit who gets this done. What bothers me is that from the way that things are going, it seems to me that 2015 will have come and gone and this promised missing piece that would decongest Metro Manila (since provincial busses will no longer have to pass though EDSA and other Metro Manila streets but will go straight into the other expressway) will still be a dream that remains unfulfilled.
Why does our President allow his own Cabinet to get in the way of things that need to get done? Does it mean nothing to his own appointees that the President has decided on the things that he wants done (even to announcing this in his SONA) that they will even create problems that the President had, in fact, already solved?
Clearly, having both tollway operators build their half of the connection would speed up things. This was probably what convinced Ramon Ang and Manny Pangilinan to agree with the President last May that “the two projects can exist simultaneously. There is enough demand. There is a common alignment, but the two will eventually separate.”
At that time, DOTC’s Mar Roxas called a press conference at which he said: “We don’t expect any hurdles or any major delays in the approval process.”
Citra’s proposal is a P25.4billion 14-kilometer.six-lame elevated tollway parralel to EDSA with exits at Buendia, Quirino, Plaza Dilao, Aurora Boulevard, E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon Boulevard, Sgt. Rivera and Balintawak.
MPIC proposes a 22.95 million connector road consisting of a 13.4 kilometer four-lane elevated expressway over the Philippine National Railway line from Caloocan to Makati.
According to the TRB, since the CITRA proposal was the original plan and had already been approved, Citra can start building. The MPIC “connector road” on the other hand, being a new proposal would have to be subjected to a Swiss challenge. One doubts that a serous Swiss challenge can be mounted, considering how cash-rich MPIC is.
Clearly, if the President’s men cannot find a way and seem unwilling to exert superhuman efforts to get these things done and quickly, our President is heading for a great embarrassment in 2015, just before his term ends in 2016. As a citizen, I want to see this done — and on schedule.
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hvp 08.06.12Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org