Despite a misunderstanding with toll regulators, “Skyway 3 will remain open,” San Miguel Corporation (SMC) President Ramon S. Ang assured the public in a statement issued Tuesday, (March 16).
The Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) insists that operator SMC can’t collect toll until they complete Skyway 3’s ramps 100 percent, he explained.
The board’s stance contradicts their supplemental agreement stating that SMC can collect toll once Skyway 3 is 95 percent complete. The expressway is 97 percent complete to date.
SMC spent over P80 billion to build Skyway 3 and its losses keep mounting because TRB was delaying the start of toll collection, Ang stressed.
“The quickest way for our infrastructure unit to speed up 100% completion of the ramps would have been to close Skyway 3,” he explained.
“We need sufficient funds for the toll road’s daily maintenance, proper long-term upkeep and to keep it safe and efficient for the motoring public,” he went on.
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade understands SMC’s predicament, according to Ang.
“Skyway 3 was built at no cost to government. After years of hard work, we opened it last December 29 so we can start serving the public for free, for a reasonable amount of time,” he pointed out.
“We have also made a lot of concessions–including lowering toll fees–in the interest of the public.”
Also, Skyway 3 is new, but heavy everyday use causes it to deteriorate if not maintained properly.
“We spend a lot for its upkeep, and at the same time lose a lot in foregone revenues. We cannot operate this and serve people if the project is not generating revenues,” the SMC President maintained.
The cost of Skyway 3 increased significantly because of problems in the acquisition of right-of-way leading to major redesigns, realignments, reconstructing which raised costs and extended the construction to two administrations.
To fast-track completion, SMC paid for all right-of-way costs, including paying of properties at prevailing market value.
The operator also shouldered the cost to relocate utilities, as well as the reconstruction of three bridges.
To ensure that motorists will not bear the heavy burden of high toll fees, SMC revised the original proposed fare matrix to significantly lower toll rates, to make it more equitable for motorists, especially during this pandemic.
“In good faith, during our earlier discussions with TRB, we lowered the proposed toll rates significantly,” says Ang.
“Basically, we took out and deferred collection of most of the cost of right-of-way acquisition. After that, we lowered the rates even further, so that people travelling short distances would pay much less.” Skyway 3 costs P10 billion per year to operate but is expected to generate just P4 billion per year in revenues, based on its proposed toll rate and the existing 60,000 vehicles per day volume.