By Joe Zaldarriaga

Approved NLEX toll rates hike lower than inflation rate

Patience is a virtue – an overused expression but also a valuable statement, which holds undeniable truth.

NLEX Corporation's remarkable display of patience while awaiting the decision of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) regarding their request for price adjustment is a sign of its high regard for the regulatory process. After years of waiting, their petition was finally approved by the regulator.

Since last month, motorists passing through the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) have been paying the new toll rates, which were supposed to be adjusted in 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2020.

The expressway is allowed to file a petition to increase toll rates every two years based on the contract between the company and the government under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) agreement.

All those years that the rates were not adjusted, NLEX did what a corporation with social responsibility to fulfill its commitment of maintaining the expressway at high grade and investing to expand national roads to ensure motorists’ and travelers’ convenience and safety.

The TRB finally granted the toll hike last month and was smoothly implemented as the public generally accepted the necessity for doing it.

Espousing a populist stand, some lawmakers tried to prevent the new toll rates implementation, saying improvements of roads must come first before adjusting the rates. They quickly realized it was a lost cause after recognizing that the adjustments were cheaper if computed against inflation.

Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) president and chief executive officer Rogelio Singson, a known action man during his stint as Public Works and Highways Secretary, said that even with the new rates, motorists save on fuel by traversing NLEX instead of toll-free roads. I certainly agree and would rather pay and use NLEX than traverse the old MacArthur highway.

He said: “Just think how much motorists can save in terms of converting that toll to the cost of 2 liters of diesel. One liter today is about PHP54, 2 liters is already over a hundred pesos. What are they paying for, PHP69?."

The toll adjustments also went through the proper TRB procedures. Meetings and dialogues with different stakeholders, including the national and local governments, transport groups, communities and media, were held to explain and inform them of the new rates.

But like the implementation of any new government laws or regulations, there will be some ‘disgruntled’ groups who will suddenly come out and try to challenge the new norm, mostly with perhaps a different agenda.

The Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations (ACTOO), a truck organization critical of the government, is claiming that the toll increase was not justified. They added ACTOO was neither informed nor consulted about the adjustment.

ACTOO was actually given a month by TRB to file a complaint if they were against the adjustment, prior to the implementation of the new rates, but failed to act on it.

In May this year, ACTOO also opposed the implementation of a new container registry and monitoring system of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) that would speed up the movement of cargo throughout the archipelago.

For now, with the adjustments in full implementation, NLEX Corp. is set to fulfill its commitment to further improve its service and invest in other infra projects that would help improve traffic and support this administration’s Build Better More infrastructure program.

I recently was invited to the groundbreaking of the Candaba Viaduct, a project expected to improve travel in Bulacan and Pampanga. We need more of these projects as we push for growth and job generation for after all it is improving people's lives we are all after.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.