Malacañang approves extension of NLEX, SLEX
- Jess Diaz () - October 7, 2006 - 12:00am
President Arroyo has approved the extension of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) from Mabalacat, Pampanga to Rosario, La Union and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) from Calamba, Laguna to Lucena City in Quezon.

Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric Singson said yesterday the President gave the approval during a meeting last week with members of the Northern Luzon Alliance, which groups congressmen from the North.

He said the meeting was also attended by Bukidnon Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri, chairman of the House committee on legislative franchises, and officials of the state-owned Philippine National Construction Co. (PNCC), which owns the two expressways.

He said the President asked PNCC to start work on the extensions as soon as possible and to finish them within 10 years.

"The extension projects will drastically cut travel time and the cost of transporting goods from the northern and southern portions of the country to Metro Manila," he said.

Singson is the president of the Northern Luzon Alliance and a House deputy speaker.

He said they sought the meeting with Mrs. Arroyo to push for the lengthening of the two expressways, particularly the NLEX extension.

He said they also called for a reduction in toll rates to reduce the cost of travel and of transporting goods.

"Reducing the toll rates will greatly benefit our farmers," he said.

Zubiri was invited to the meeting of the Ilocos lawmakers with the President because his committee had endorsed the extension of the PNCC franchise by 25 years despite opposition from some congressmen who want the private sector to take over the state agency’s job.

Those opposed to the extension pointed out that NLEX and the SLEX are now operated by private corporations that have been given contracts to rehabilitate and run them on a build-operate-transfer arrangement.

As a result, NLEX is now more efficiently maintained and operated, they said.

The contractor, a Lopez-controlled company, made a net profit of about P3 billion out of gross earnings of more than P5 billion on its first full year of operation. The Lopezes are now planning to sell the company.

The lawmakers, who tried but failed to block PNCC’s franchise extension, said the PNCC is mired in debt and should be closed down and not given an extended authority to incur more debts.

Singson’s group had threatened to block the extension of the PNCC franchise if there was no commitment to extend NLEX to La Union and to reduce toll rates.

Singson said the failure by the PNCC to build the extensions within the 10-year period would mean cancellation of its franchise.

BUKIDNON REP ERIC SINGSON EXTENSION ILOCOS SUR REP JUAN MIGUEL ZUBIRI LA UNION LA UNION AND THE SOUTH LUZON EXPRESSWAY LUCENA CITY METRO MANILA NORTHERN LUZON ALLIANCE SINGSON
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