By Emmie V. Abadilla
Some 2,000 doctors and nurses have already availed of the free at the STARtollway, South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), the Skyway system, NAIAX, and the Tarlac- Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) after operator San Miguel Corporation (SMC) waived the charges last week.
In the first two weeks of the ECQ that started last March 15, SMC’s tollways unit reported an 80 per cent percent drop in vehicle volume from an average of 300,000 daily, at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), which connects Metro Manila to Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, and Quezon, to as far as the Bicol region.
For now, only vehicles containing essential goods and services are allowed by the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IAFT-EID) to travel on most roads, including the SLEX, Skyway, Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR), NAIA Expressway Tollway, and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX).
Apart from providing free use of the expressway for medical frontliners, SLEX has also designated priority lanes for medical practitioners and vehicles carrying essential goods such as medical supplies, medical equipment, food and raw materials for food.
“Our toll roads are very important links to keeping the supply chain of essential goods dynamic and despite the slowdown in traffic, we are committed to keeping them fully operational,” according to SMC president Ramon S. Ang.
“We started this (free toll) initiative not only to show support for our medical frontliners and government but also to inspire more businesses to step up their responses all the more and play their part in fighting the battle against COVID-19,” he added.
“We know this is a small thing, considering the significance of what of our doctors and nurses are faced with everyday, but this is one way we can serve them as they serve our country.”
All SMC Infrastructure – operated tollways will continue to be operational and extend full support to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in enforcing the Luzon-wide quarantine, while ensuring the unimpeded flow of essential goods and personnel.
“Our tollway employees continue to do their jobs and are committed to serving motorists on essential travel,” noted Ang.
“The loss of business and profits at this time when the country is dealing with a global pandemic, is not nearly as important as saving lives,” says the SMC President.
“Saving lives is always more important than money. We need to have a healthy population, reduce the number of individuals who can potentially get sick and die. We can always rebuild and make money in the process. Once a life is lost, it’s gone forever.”