© Copyright, 2015 (PHNO)
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NOY'S CORNER THIS PAST WEEK...
(MINI-READS followed by FULL REPORTS below)

MORE 'PORK' FOUND, THIS TIME IN CHED BUDGET


AUGUST 27 -CALL FOR AQUINO RESIGNATION: REP. Terry Ridon of the Kabataan party-list group yesterday hit the P1-billion scholarship program under the P10.5-billion proposed budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for 2016, saying it could be turned into “pork barrel” by lawmakers.
The left-leaning congressman said the P1-billion CHED fund is under the “Tulong Dunong” program which he said could be used by lawmakers for scholarship programs for their constituents, in the absence of the Priority Development Assistance Funds or “pork barrel” which the Supreme Court declared illegal in 2013. While congressmen and senators have lost total control over their congressional allocations following the SC decision, they are still allowed to recommend projects to department heads, especially to the public works secretary. Last Tuesday, Ridon said there is a P21-billion lump sum item under the Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget for 2016. He said the funds “can be tapped by the ruling party for pork funds.”  Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday belied Ridon’s claim, saying the DA does not have lump sum appropriations because all funds in their proposed budget are clearly defined, and projects are all itemized and identified as part of the government’s transparency policy. “Nakalista ito lahat. Ipapadala namin sa mga members ng committee ang detalyadong listahan,” the DA chief said. READ MORE...

ALSO: SWS poll lists BOC as most corrupt agency


AUGUST 29 -LINA The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is the most corrupt government agency, according to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.
The survey results come at a time when the BOC is still in the midst of public ire for its policy on the random inspection of “balikbayan” boxes. The same poll also revealed that corruption and bribery among the government institutions have declined. BOC was given a “very bad” grade with a -55 rating of sincerity in fighting corruption. BOC also got the worst rating of -63 in the 2013 survey. In the wake of this development, Customs officials expressed hope they could reverse its negative image after topping a survey on the most corrupt agencies in the government. “I hope and pray that it will not happen again. Do you have proposals so we could avoid that? I am hopeful that one day, your children or grandchildren will be able to say that the bureau is not like that,” BOC Commissioner Albert D. Lina said in a press conference yesterday. In the same conference, OFW Party-list Rep. Roy Señeres Sr. said he will propose an increase in the monetary value limit of balikbayan box contents from P10,000 to P100,000. “I will propose for the limit to be raised to P100,000. For example, a laptop already costs P64,000; that is no longer P10,000,” Señeres said. Despite adverse survey result for the BOC, Malacañang was elated by the decline in corruption in government from the viewpoint of the business community. READ MORE...

ALSO: OFWs show unity in ‘Zero Remittance Day’ protest action


AUGUST 29 -The “Zero Remittance Day” protest of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that was held yesterday was a success, declared the Migrante Party-list, a group protecting the rights of OFWs. For one day, OFWs did not remit money to their families in the Philippines as a protest to the planned additional taxes imposed on balikbayan boxes that they send to their relatives in the country. The protest was also directed to the planned random physical inspection of balikbayan boxes which many claim have also caused pilferage. Migrante said the protest action was estimated to have cost a P3.1-billion loss in remittances yesterday, citing figures from Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero and an economist who they did not name. Participating in yesterday’s action were OFW groups and communities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Middle East, Vietnam, Thailand, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, and other parts of the world. Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante partylist said the relatives of OFWs in the country had asked their relatives working abroad to join the protest action. She said the August 28 Zero Remittance Day was called by OFWs around the world to rally against the Aquino government and the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) revenue target of P600 million from balikbayan boxes. The BOC action had defended it action as a move to prevent smuggling of illegal items or highly taxable products through the balikbayan boxes. Regalado said that the Aquino government stopped the BOC’s random inspection of balikbayan boxes after OFWs took to social media to express their outrage. Many of them claimed that their boxes had been pilfered. READ MORE...

ALSO INC PROTESTS: President Aquino holds emergency meeting with Cabinet to tackle protest rally


AUGUST 31 -
On the third night of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) protests on EDSA Sunday, August 30, President Benigno Aquino III called for a meeting with senior Cabinet officials and police and military generals to tackle options on how to best deal with the situation. One Cabinet Secretary has been in talks with INC representatives and their discussions were part of the agenda during Sunday night’s meeting at Bahay Pangarap, the President’s official residence in Malacañang, Rappler learned. FROM RAPPLER.COM Iglesia Ni Cristo members gather at Edsa Shrine to impress their hatred against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in her interfered. (Aug.28,2015) (photo by Manny Llanes) Iglesia Ni Cristo members gather at Edsa Shrine to impress their hatred against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in her interfered. (Aug.28,2015) (photo by Manny Llanes) With no end in sight for the massive Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) protest action along EDSA, President Aquino has summoned several Cabinet members to a meeting on Sunday night to tackle the “developments” related to the rally. Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima were among the top government officials who trooped to Bahay Pangarap for the late-night assembly with the President. “In a meeting with the President to discuss the INC rally at EDSA,” Roxas tweeted past midnight. The President’s emergency meeting with top government officials was first bared by Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III via his Twitter account. “The President discussing developments with members of Cabinet and other officials at Bahay Pangarap,” Quezon tweeted around 11:30 p.m. Sunday. READ MORE...


ALSO by Mary Ann LL Reyes:
Gov’t
should remove its blinders
[The current traffic woes should therefore not come as a surprise to the present administration, considering that it has done absolutely nothing to provide a long-term, sustainable, and practical solution to the problem.]


AUGUST 30 -By Mary Ann LL. Reyes
First, we have a transportation czar who in a nonchalant manner tells us that the Metro Manila traffic situation is “not fatal.” He later apologized, but that does not take away the fact that we already know what he really thinks about our problem. Second, we have a President who seems to have ran out of ideas when he said that he is mulling a revival of the odd-even scheme to reduce the volume of traffic without even considering how motorists-turned-commuters will go around town given the sorry state of our public and mass transport system. The real solution, which they should have adopted years back, is more roads that could provide alternatives to our two major Metro Manila highways – EDSA and C5. They say it is too late in the game to build new roads. That’s true. But if they start now rather than later, then the solution will come much earlier. We have here the likes of the Metro Pacific Group and the San Miguel Group, all more than willing to start their respective new road projects and improve existing ones that they own and/or operate. So what’s stopping them? Metro Pacific’s Manila North Tollways Corp. or MNTC operates the North Luzon Expressway and is awaiting government’s turnover of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway. It has bagged the contract to build the C-5 Link Expressway that will connect the Manila-Cavite Expressway or Cavitex with C5 as well as the Cavite-Laguna Expressway or Calax project; San Miguel Corp.’s Private Infra Development Corp. has the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway or TPLEX while SMC-Citra operates the South Luzon Expressway, Skyway, the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road or STAR Toll. But the government seems doing everything in its power to prevent seamless travel along major thoroughfares from becoming a reality. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

MORE ‘PORK’ FOUND, THIS TIME IN CHED BUDGET

MANILA, AUGUST 31, 2015 (MALAYA)  By WENDELL VIGILIA - REP. Terry Ridon of the Kabataan party-list group yesterday hit the P1-billion scholarship program under the P10.5-billion proposed budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) for 2016, saying it could be turned into “pork barrel” by lawmakers.

The left-leaning congressman said the P1-billion CHED fund is under the “Tulong Dunong” program which he said could be used by lawmakers for scholarship programs for their constituents, in the absence of the Priority Development Assistance Funds or “pork barrel” which the Supreme Court declared illegal in 2013.

While congressmen and senators have lost total control over their congressional allocations following the SC decision, they are still allowed to recommend projects to department heads, especially to the public works secretary.

Last Tuesday, Ridon said there is a P21-billion lump sum item under the Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget for 2016. He said the funds “can be tapped by the ruling party for pork funds.”

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday belied Ridon’s claim, saying the DA does not have lump sum appropriations because all funds in their proposed budget are clearly defined, and projects are all itemized and identified as part of the government’s transparency policy.

“Nakalista ito lahat. Ipapadala namin sa mga members ng committee ang detalyadong listahan,” the DA chief said.

READ MORE...

“Na-submit na namin ito sa DBM (Department of Budget and Management) dahil requirement iyon para mapasama sa proposed national budget,” he added.

The DA is seeking a budget of P53.59 billion for next year, or P1.35 billion higher than its budget for the current year.

At the House during the budget deliberations yesterday on the CHED budget, Chair Patricia Licuanan admitted to congressmen that legislators are being allowed by CHED to “nominate” beneficiaries for the scholarship program “for as long as they comply with the requirements.”

“Tulong Dunong” is a financial assistance program for college students which CHED started this year with a P1.4-billion budget. For 2016, CHED is seeking P986.2 million for the same program.

“My suspicion is the Tulong Dunong program just replaced the PDAF under CHED. Under this program, CHED may be allowing legislators to tap funds and identify beneficiaries, much like how they used to under the PDAF regime,” Ridon said.

Ridon pointed out that the new financial assistance program sprouted only after the discontinuation of the pork barrel system, under which scholarship funds used to be allotted under CHED.

Before the Supreme Court declared PDAF as unconstitutional, legislators used the PDAF to fund CHED scholarships.

While Ridon questioned the CHED’s scholarship program, he also complained that the budget of state universities and colleges (SUCs) was slashed under the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016.

Ridon said despite the nominal 4 percent increase in the budget of 114 SUCs, from P42.3 billion in 2015 to the proposed P43.8 billion in 2016, 10 SUCs will incur a net decrease in their respective budgets.

He said 59 SUCs are set to incur cuts in the budget for their maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), while 40 SUCs are set to suffer cuts in their capital outlay budget.

“At first glance, the budget for SUCs in 2016 seems to be nominally bigger than last year’s budget but if we analyze each component of the budget carefully, one will see that the increase in the personnel service outlay actually hides the cuts in the MOOE and capital outlay (CO) components,” Ridon said.

Personnel services refer to the budget for salaries and benefits of an agency’s personnel while the MOOE is an agency’s budget component for day-to-day operations and utilities. The CO is the budget for new infrastructure.

While there is an across-the-board increase in the PS component of SUCs’ budget for 2016, the other components tell a different story.

Ridon said the cuts in the MOOE of the 59 state schools amount to P477.8 million. Western Visayas is the region most affected by the MOOE cuts, with eight schools in the region affected. At close second is Eastern Visayas, with seven schools in the said region also about to suffer MOOE cuts. – With Angela Lopez de Leon


MANILA BULLETIN

SWS poll lists BOC as most corrupt agency by Betheena Kae Unite August 29, 2015 Share24 Tweet4 Share0 Email0 Share64


LINA

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is the most corrupt government agency, according to the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

The survey results come at a time when the BOC is still in the midst of public ire for its policy on the random inspection of “balikbayan” boxes.

The same poll also revealed that corruption and bribery among the government institutions have declined.

BOC was given a “very bad” grade with a -55 rating of sincerity in fighting corruption. BOC also got the worst rating of -63 in the 2013 survey.

In the wake of this development, Customs officials expressed hope they could reverse its negative image after topping a survey on the most corrupt agencies in the government.

“I hope and pray that it will not happen again. Do you have proposals so we could avoid that? I am hopeful that one day, your children or grandchildren will be able to say that the bureau is not like that,” BOC Commissioner Albert D. Lina said in a press conference yesterday.

In the same conference, OFW Party-list Rep. Roy Señeres Sr. said he will propose an increase in the monetary value limit of balikbayan box contents from P10,000 to P100,000.

“I will propose for the limit to be raised to P100,000. For example, a laptop already costs P64,000; that is no longer P10,000,” Señeres said.

Despite adverse survey result for the BOC, Malacañang was elated by the decline in corruption in government from the viewpoint of the business community.

READ MORE...

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the latest survey results show the positive transformation of the government into a public service-oriented institution, far from the corruption-tainted government inherited by President Aquino in 2010.

LESS BRIBERY

“The latest snapshot of public opinion from the Social Weather Stations (SWS) shows a decline in corruption, with a new record low: 32 percent of business managers affirming personal knowledge of a corrupt transaction with government during the last three months of their operation. The previous record low for this measure was logged in 2012, at 33 percent,” Lacierda said.

This means that less businessman are engaged in bribery, and the government institutions are being more sincere in fighting against corruption.

The 2014-2015 survey is based on face-to-face interviews of executives of 966 enterprises in National Capital Region, Metro Angeles, Cavite-Laguna-Batangas, Metro Iloilo, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, and Cagayan de Oro-Iligan over the period of Nov. 14, 2014 to May 12, 2015.

According to the survey, a record-low 39 percent said most companies in their sector of business give bribes to win the public sector contracts.

SINCERITY RATINGS

Meanwhile, the following agencies topped the sincerity ratings in fighting corruption with “very good” grades: the Securities and Exchange Commission, Social Security System, Philippine Stock Exchange, Office of the President, and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The “good” mark was given to the Filipino business associations, Supreme Court, Civil Service Commission, Department of Education, Sandiganbayan, Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, and Department of Justice.

The “moderate” rating was given to the Department of Health, Government Service Insurance System, Department of Social Welfare and Development, their own Barangay Government, Department of Finance, Presidential Commission on Good Government, Governance Commission for GOCCs, and their own City Government.

It was a “neutral” rating for the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Trial Courts, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Transportation and Communication, the Senate, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and Commission on Elections.

The “poor” rating was given to the Department of Agriculture, Philippine National Police, Department of Public Works and Highways, House of Representatives, and Land Transportation Office. (With reports from Jenny F. Manongdo and Genalyn D. Kabiling)


MANILA BULLETIN

OFWs show unity in ‘Zero Remittance Day’ protest action by Chito A. Chavez August 29, 2015 Share121 Tweet4 Share1 Email0 Share178

The “Zero Remittance Day” protest of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that was held yesterday was a success, declared the Migrante Party-list, a group protecting the rights of OFWs.

For one day, OFWs did not remit money to their families in the Philippines as a protest to the planned additional taxes imposed on balikbayan boxes that they send to their relatives in the country. The protest was also directed to the planned random physical inspection of balikbayan boxes which many claim have also caused pilferage.

Migrante said the protest action was estimated to have cost a P3.1-billion loss in remittances yesterday, citing figures from Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero and an economist who they did not name.

Participating in yesterday’s action were OFW groups and communities in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Middle East, Vietnam, Thailand, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland, and other parts of the world.

Connie Bragas-Regalado of Migrante partylist said the relatives of OFWs in the country had asked their relatives working abroad to join the protest action.

She said the August 28 Zero Remittance Day was called by OFWs around the world to rally against the Aquino government and the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) revenue target of P600 million from balikbayan boxes. The BOC action had defended it action as a move to prevent smuggling of illegal items or highly taxable products through the balikbayan boxes.

Regalado said that the Aquino government stopped the BOC’s random inspection of balikbayan boxes after OFWs took to social media to express their outrage. Many of them claimed that their boxes had been pilfered.

READ MORE...

However, she said that the balikbayan boxes are still not free from that policy. “For as long as the P600-million target collection stays, the BOC is given the license to ransack our balikbayan boxes or impose other tax schemes,’’ Regalado said.

The organization has received reports from families who still got boxes which have been opened for inspection even after the BOC order was issued, she said.

“Our main demand today is for the Aquino government to retract its P600-million target collections on OFWs’ balikbayan boxes,” Regalado said.

She also cited the government’s statements “belittling” the Zero Remittance Day as “further inciting OFWs and their families” as they felt insulted by the government’s declaration.

“Those who belittle our political exercise also look down upon our strength and unity as a sector. Our message today is clear: The migrant sector is a force to reckon with. Those who have insulted us will feel the brunt of OFWs and their families’ ire this coming election. We have millions of overseas absentee voters, we have millions of relatives back home who are voters. Let today’s Zero Remittance Day serve as a preview of the migrant sector’s unity come election time,” Regalado said.

The group also cited the other fees that have been imposed on OFWs such as the increased ePassport fees, PhilHealth premium fees, mandatory Pag-IBIG contributions, P550 terminal fee, affidavit of support fees and other consular fees.


MANILA BULLETIN

President Aquino holds meeting with Cabinet to tackle INC protest rally by Genalyn Kabiling August 31, 2015


Iglesia Ni Cristo members gather at Edsa Shrine to impress their hatred against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in her interfered. (Aug.28,2015) (photo by Manny Llanes) Iglesia Ni Cristo members gather at Edsa Shrine to impress their hatred against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in her interfered. (Aug.28,2015) (photo by Manny Llanes)

With no end in sight for the massive Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) protest action along EDSA, President Aquino has summoned several Cabinet members to a meeting on Sunday night to tackle the “developments” related to the rally.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima were among the top government officials who trooped to Bahay Pangarap for the late-night assembly with the President. “In a meeting with the President to discuss the INC rally at EDSA,” Roxas tweeted past
midnight.

The President’s emergency meeting with top government officials was first bared by Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III via his Twitter account.

“The President discussing developments with members of Cabinet and other officials at Bahay Pangarap,” Quezon tweeted around 11:30 p.m. Sunday.

READ MORE...

Two photos of the President’s meeting with the Cabinet and other security officials at his official residence were also posted by Quezon. Among the government officials seen in the photos were Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

The meeting was called just as the massive INC rally caused road closure and traffic congestion burdening motorists and commuters on Sunday. Reports indicated the INC plans to hold more rallies in other parts of the country to denounce the government’s alleged interference in its internal affairs.

Earlier, the President ordered authorities to ensure the INC assembly along EDSA will remain peaceful and orderly and not disrupt normal activities of the general public. The government respects the rights of the INC members to express their views but the President has reminded that “freedom requires responsibility,” according to a Palace official.

“The President’s instructions were to ensure the safety of the public…not just those who are involved in the protest, but more importantly, those who are uninvolved in the protest; meaning, the greater population who passes through that entire thoroughfare,”

Deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said over government radio last Saturday. “The President mentioned specifically that government should ensure—at least, the executive branch—should ensure that there are no opportunities for those who may want to take advantage of the situation for their personal end,” she added.


PHILSTAR

Gov’t should remove its blinders HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 30, 2015 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


By Mary Ann LL. Reyes

First, we have a transportation czar who in a nonchalant manner tells us that the Metro Manila traffic situation is “not fatal.” He later apologized, but that does not take away the fact that we already know what he really thinks about our problem.

Second, we have a President who seems to have ran out of ideas when he said that he is mulling a revival of the odd-even scheme to reduce the volume of traffic without even considering how motorists-turned-commuters will go around town given the sorry state of our public and mass transport system.

The real solution, which they should have adopted years back, is more roads that could provide alternatives to our two major Metro Manila highways – EDSA and C5.

They say it is too late in the game to build new roads. That’s true. But if they start now rather than later, then the solution will come much earlier.

We have here the likes of the Metro Pacific Group and the San Miguel Group, all more than willing to start their respective new road projects and improve existing ones that they own and/or operate. So what’s stopping them?

Metro Pacific’s Manila North Tollways Corp. or MNTC operates the North Luzon Expressway and is awaiting government’s turnover of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

It has bagged the contract to build the C-5 Link Expressway that will connect the Manila-Cavite Expressway or Cavitex with C5 as well as the Cavite-Laguna Expressway or Calax project.

San Miguel Corp.’s Private Infra Development Corp. has the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway or TPLEX while SMC-Citra operates the South Luzon Expressway, Skyway, the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road or STAR Toll.

But the government seems doing everything in its power to prevent seamless travel along major thoroughfares from becoming a reality.

READ MORE...

Take the case of SCTEX.

MNTC’s contract to manage and operate STEX was approved as early as 2009, but the succeeding administration wanted to renegotiate the contract.

And then last November, President Aquino ordered the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to stage a price challenge or competitive bidding.

Finally, last February, BCDA and MNTC signed the business operating agreement turning over management, operations and maintenance of SCTEX to the toll operator for the next 29 years after MNTC won the price challenge.

Almost seven months after the signing, government has not turned over SCTEX despite the Metro Pacific group having deposited the required P3.5 billion in cash in an escrow account and having secured the consent of JICA which financed SCTEX’s construction, as part of the pre-takeover conditions.

They say the supplemental toll operation agreement (STOA) which has already been approved by TRB is still pending at the Office of the President.

Meanwhile, the government is again taking its sweet time in switching on the green light so that Cavitex Infrastructure Corp. (CIC) also of the Metro Pacific group can start work on the C5 Link Expressway project.

MPIC said earlier that under CIC’s concession, “the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) is required to issue the Notice to Proceed for the construction of the project, as soon as an independent consulting firm issues a certification under the toll operation agreement on the availability of the right of way for the alignment already approved by DPWH, the approval of a final engineering design now undergoing final review, and construction schedules and costs.”

MPIC said that once completed, the project would “provide relief to traffic congestion in Paranaque City, particularly the residents of Merville, Moonwalk and Multinational villages, and will provide safe, fast and convenient expressway travel for its users in the Cavite, Las Piñas, Parañaque, Taguig, and Makati areas and nearby areas.”

CIC is still waiting TRB’s issuance of the Notice to Proceed and according to CIC president Luigi Bautista “all the projected preparations are in place and on schedule, and we are ready to commence construction as soon as the Notice to Proceed is issued by the TRB.”

In a related development, two projects that could have eased Metro Manila traffic had they been allowed to start construction early remain delayed.

We are referring to the P25.6-billion Metro Manila Skyway 3 (Skyway 3) of the SMC-Citra consortium and the parallel NLEX-SLEX Connector Road of Metro Pacific.

The delay was partly due to the need to redesign both alignments after the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board belatedly approved the North-South Railway Project (NSRP), which will use the same railroad tracks of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) that will be used by the two privately-initiated projects.

SMC-Citra has started building Skyway 3 but has moved back its target completion to 2017.

On the other hand, MPIC’s NLEX-Connector Road has yet to take off the ground after government said the Swiss Challenge that will be conducted for the project still needs approval by the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC), and then confirmation by the NEDA Board. It is only after confirmation that the invitation to bid can be published.


MANILA, Philippines - The P15.8-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway (NAIAX) project is facing more delays and is not likely to be completed during the scheduled Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in November. JANUARY 2015 PHILSTAR NEWS

Another important project, the P15.8-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway (NAIAX), which SMC’s Vertex Tollways Development Inc. (VTDI) is building as a PPP project to connect the four NAIA terminals to the Skyway System and Cavitex, is already a year behind schedule and will not be completed in time for November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit in Manila.

SMC Tollway Projects head Alec Cruz said the delay is due to DPWH’s failure to deliver the full right-of-way for the project in April last year. Government has yet to deliver the ROW for a number of key areas, including Villamor Airbase, NAIA Road, Tambo, and locations along the Quirino to Roxas Boulevard stretch, Cruz added.

Also, MPCALA Holdings Inc.’s timetable for its P35.42-billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway (Calax) is being threatened likewise by government’s non-delivery of the necessary ROW.

According to reports, the DPWH was supposed to issue the Notice to Proceed last July 31, but was unable to do so due to non-delivery of the ROW and the approved detailed engineering design.

Calax is a 44.6-kilometer, four-lane expressway connecting Cavitex in Kawit, Cavite and the SLEX-Mamplasan Interchange in Biñan, Laguna.

Meanwhile, ROW problems are also causing delays for MNTC’s NLEX Harbor Link project as well as another one that would extend NLEX from Mindanao Avenue to Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City.

In a related development, the operators and concessionaires of NLEX, SLEX, Cavitex and STAR have filed their respective petitions for toll increases starting January this year. But instead of granting the long overdue rate adjustment, the DPWH and TRB is considering just extending their concessions or reimbursing their expenses for road improvements to improve their revenues.

But MNTC has said that they prefer a toll rate increase because they need the cash to finance repair and maintenance work. MPIC, for instance, is spending P1.5 billion in the next three years to rehabilitate SCTEX and is integrating SCTEX with NLEX at a cost of P650 million.

SIDC meanwhile proceeded with the STAR Phase 2 expansion at a cost of P2.3 billion reportedly based on an assurance from TRB that a toll hike will be granted. TRB reportedly asked SIDC to build additional lanes, apply a new layer of asphalt on the road, and put up a new interconnection plaza with the adjacent SLEX. SIDC was able to finish the project, but the toll hike never came.

The current traffic woes should therefore not come as a surprise to the present administration, considering that it has done absolutely nothing to provide a long-term, sustainable, and practical solution to the problem.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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