Gleaming NLEX
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - September 30, 2015 - 10:00am

It continues to amaze me – this firm called the Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC), as well as its gleaming tollway, the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) – for its consistent record of excellence.

No one challenges the fact that NLEX has become the “gold standard” in building and operating expressways in the Philippines – and even in Asia. People have run out of positive adjectives to describe the very smooth pavement of the NLEX.

Local motorists from as far as Laoag speak of getting to Manila faster than before – of course, not only because of NLEX, but because of two relatively new tollways – the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and TPLEX (Tarlac Pangasinan La Union Expressway).

Residents from Pampanga and Bulacan go to their Manila-based jobs and bring their kids to schools in the megapolis, and are back to their homes in the evening in time for supper. Again because of NLEX and the two other expressways. (If their travel time is doubled, blame it on the traffic jams in Metro Manila, or to meetings of a religious organization along the NLEX. )

 What’s more the NLEX brand of service has not waned in terms of motorist care, hassle-free travel, on-time roadside assistance guided by GPS, and operational excellence. The professional touch of the MVP Group of Companies has truly retained its magic.

 And here’s one thing about MNTC that is not visible to the eye, and yet also proves the firm’s commendable performance in all aspects of the business: MNTC enjoys top rating for its financial performance and the firm is, therefore, the darling of creditors.

 Recently, MNTC was given the top triple “A” rating by the Philippine Rating Services (PRS) Corp. for its outstanding P7 billion bonds. What does this mean? In a published report in this paper, PRS Aaa-rated debt securities are deemed “of the highest quality with minimal credit risk.”

 For us laypersons in the financial management discipline, the rating cites MNTC’s “extremely strong capacity to meet its financial commitment.” Such a line expresses a creditor’s strong confidence in one’s capacity to re-pay a financial obligation.

The Star report quoted Philratings statement that MNTC is taking measures to maintain its good financial performance, in spite of delays “in the regular and contractual adjustments of the toll rates.” That’s why “to further insulate itself from the effect of delays in toll rate adjustments, the company also aims to grow its other non-toll income,” Philratings noted.

Of course, in my book, the main revenue of any tollway company is the toll fee, and the sooner the toll fee is adjusted the better for all motorists, because that means MNTC can maintain its level of excellent service. Oh well, MNTC has been faring well since it opened its commercial operations in 2005, and so I have no doubt that the firm will do things excellently.

*      *      *

Being a “native” of Misamis Oriental (Gingoog City, particularly), I was pleased to meet House Representative Juliette T. Uy of the province’s second district during the recent visit of 15 Filipina legislators to the People’s Republic of China. Another Mindanaonon on the same trip that caught my attention was Malou Acosta of Bukidnon. How they became interested in politics and governance is cause for wonderment among women writers.

Running for public office was farthest from the mind of Juliette Tiu Uy,  Xavier University commerce graduate, who was pretty settled running the family rice and corn trading business in Villanueva, Mis. Or. It was enough that her husband, Julio Uy, was the town mayor for nine years (1995-2004). Juliette recalls with pride Julio’s working for the reclassification of the town from 6th to 3rd class. When his term was over, he convinced Juliette to make a run for the position. Reluctantly she accepted, and proved she was after all capable of running a small town’s (population, 30,000) affairs. She will be remembered for the construction of farm-to-market roads, a water system for the whole municipality, and, importantly, inviting large companies to invest in the town. These are Cargill Purina, Lim Ket Kai, Coca-Cola (the largest plant in Mindanao), Steag, a German coal power plant, and Yan Yan, Inc.

A big contributor to Villanueva’s growth is its location, i.e., of being the next town to Phividec Industrial Authority (PIA), a government owned and controlled corporation which administers and supervises the 3,000 hectare PIA estate right next door to Rep. Uy’s town.  It is one of the largest industrial estates in the country.

As a result of the taxes paid by investors, revenues for the town rose from P28 million when she took over to P53 million today. “Our debt of P32 million from the bank for the installation of the water system will almost be paid next year,” says Juliette.

Before she became mayor, the town paid P400,000 a month for water supplied by a cooperative. Now, it has a revenue of P1.2 million per month from consumers’ fees for a 24-hour supply of water sourced by gravity from a spring.

By the end of her third term as mayor, she accepted the challenge to run for Congress in the 2013 election. She was running “against three male candidates, I was an independent, and a lady.” She did not hold rallies, but went from house to house, asking residents if they considered what she did for Villanueva made it progressive. Her theme was, “ Paghiusa ang Dalan sa Kalambuan.” (Unity is the Road to Progress). Juliette won – the first woman congresswoman of the province. She plans to run again in next year’s elections under the National Unity Party.

Holding the fort at home is her husband, who is the town mayor again. Her chief of staff in the House is her only daughter, a UP speech major who graduated cum laude.

In Congress, she has filed local bills, among them one that gives municipal employees (barangay health workers and policemen, etc.) allowances, and another that is now into third reading, creating civil register offices in municipalities to issue birth certificates. The 1983 law is antiquated, she says, as people have to travel to the city to register their infants’ birth. Right now, Representative Uy says, there are around 5 to 7 million unregistered births in the country.

*   *   *

Top professors and practitioners are being assembled for a two-day seminar-workshop on “Mastering Media Engagement,” set next month -- on October 21-22, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the UP College of Mass Communication Auditorium and its studios.

This workshop is a joint effort of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication and Creative Point International Continuing Education. This learning event is the second of a series of lectures and workshops jointly conducted by the UP MassCom and CPI, according to Vanessa Q. Velasco, training director of the UP-CPI joint learning program. The first one was “Mastering the Craft of Public Speaking and Speech Writing.” Four more seminars are slated this year.

Now, UP and CPI have joined forces under the UP MassCom Foundation, and this is well and good. It’s time that the discipline and framework of the academics should blend with the street-smart strategies of the practitioners!

The seminar and workshop speakers come from the academe, government, the private sector and media.

My friend, former Undersecretary Dante M. Velasco, and chairman of Creative Point International, leads the list of speakers with Dr. Elena Pernia, dean of the College of Mass Communication.

Dante, who is now both practitioner and an academic, will share strategies in winning stakeholders’ trust and crisis-preparedness, while Dean Pernia, who was the immediate past Reader’s Advocate of the Inquirer, will walk the participants through the media landscape.

Tina Dumlao, business features editor, will share the elements of an effective press story. Manila Electric Company Joe Zaldarriaga who will share tips in speaking on behalf of your organization, followed by lawyer Antonio Ligon, who will settle the question, “When do you stop being a lawyer and start being a spokesperson?”

Veronica Baluyut- Jimenez, accomplished broadcast journalist and award-winning newscaster, will give tips preparing for a TV interview.


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