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ACTO opposes plan to hike NLEX toll rates by 11.8%

MANILA, Philippines - The Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO) yesterday expressed its intention to press its opposition to the planned 11.8 percent toll hike at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) set to be implemented by Jan. 1, 2011.

This, despite explanation given by the NLEX operator, the Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC), that the proposed toll increase was the first to be imposed for users of the NLEX since it started managing the expressway in 2005.

The MNTC said it even imposed two toll reductions since it began operating the tollway after a multibillion-peso rehabilitation.

Efren de Luna, ACTO president, said they are set to submit before the weekend a position paper on their opposition to the toll hike plan to the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB).

De Luna said leading their list of issues was the MNTC’s alleged failure to observe the proper procedures set by law in the application, approval and subsequent imposition of toll hikes.

De Luna said the MNTC allegedly violated procedures when it recently made the request for a toll hike directly to Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose de Jesus, and not to the TRB.

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De Jesus formerly headed the MNTC when it was controlled by the Lopez family which later sold their stake in the tollway to the Metro Pacific Group of businessman Manny Pangilinan.

In a TRB public hearing on the proposed toll hike yesterday, Marlene Ochoa, MNTC public affairs and corporate communications officer, said the toll increase was based on the agreed formula set by the TRB and the MNTC in their tollway operation and management contract.

With the proposed 11.8 percent hike, Ochoa said the current toll rate of P2.38 per kilometer for Class 1 vehicles from Balintawak to Santa Ines, Pampanga would go up to P195 from P174.

Ochoa said the NLEX rate for Class 1 vehicles was P2.48 per kilometer, or P203 for the distance, in 2005.

On Feb. 10, 2005, Ochoa said the MNTC heeded calls from the government to lower toll rates due to the peso’s strength, reducing the toll rates by 11.6 percent and translating into a toll rate of P2.48 per kilometer, or P180 for Class 1 vehicles for the Balintawak-Santa Ines stretch.

Toll rates were again lowered on July 1, 2008 by 3.1 percent, for the same reason, translating into a toll rate of P2.13 per kilometer or P174 for Class 1 vehicles on the same stretch.

Ochoa said that looking at the TRB-MNTC formula, there was reason to hike the toll rates due to inflation.

“Since July 2008, the Consumer Price Index rose from 153.9 to 166.8,” she said.

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