Ramon Ang Says Supposed Closure of Skyway 3 Is a 'Misunderstanding'
On Tuesday, March 16, there was confusion about whether Skyway Stage 3 would be open to motorists or not. San Miguel Corporation had earlier announced that it was ordered by the Toll Regulatory Board to close its Skyway 3 project until it is 100 percent completed. Distressed motorists took to social media, fueling speculations that TRB was playing hardball amid toll rate disagreements.
But the TRB reacted and backpedaled, tweeting that it did not issue a decision or directive ordering the indefinite closure of the Skyway Stage 3 starting at 5 p.m, today.
Finally, SMC president and COO Ramon Ang clarified matters. “Skyway 3 will remain open,” he said in a statement. Apparently it was all a misunderstanding between SMC’s infrastructure division that built Skyway 3 and the TRB. Ang said he has relayed this commitment to Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade who, in turn, committed to act upon the company’s concerns with urgency and prudence.
“Basically, TRB is insisting that Skyway 3 cannot start full operations and collect toll until all ramps are 100 percent complete,” Ang explained in a statement. “Our supplemental toll operation agreement states that we can start collecting at 95 percent completion. We are now 97 percent complete. We need sufficient funds for the toll road’s daily maintenance, proper long-term upkeep and to keep it safe and efficient for the motoring public. As Skyway 3’s losses have been mounting because TRB keeps delaying the start of toll collection, the quickest way for our infrastructure unit to speed up 100 percent completion of the ramps would have been to close Skyway 3.”
“Secretary Tugade understands our predicament,” Ang added. “Skyway 3 was built at no cost to government. SMC fully-funded the over P80 billion cost to build it. After years of hard work, we opened it last December 29 so we can start serving the public for free, for a reasonable amount of time.
"We have also made a lot of concessions—including lowering toll fees—in the interest of the public. Also, Skyway 3 is new, but heavy everyday use causes it to deteriorate if not maintained properly. We spend a lot for its upkeep, and at the same time lose a lot in foregone revenues. We cannot operate this and serve people if the project is not generating revenues.
Ang said that the cost of Skyway 3 increased significantly because of the problems in the acquisition of right-of-way leading to major redesigns, realignments, reconstructing which raised costs and extended the construction to two administrations and SMC paid for all right-of-way costs, including paying of properties at prevailing market value. It also shouldered the cost to relocate utilities, as well as the reconstruction of three bridges.
“In good faith, during our earlier discussions with TRB, we lowered the proposed toll rates significantly. Basically, we took out and deferred collection of most of the cost of right-of-way acquisition. After that, we lowered the rates even further, so that people travelling short distances would pay much less,” Ang added.
SMC said it had to add P10 billion per year to operate the toll road, while it is only expecting to generate P4 billion per year based on its proposed toll rate and the existing 60,000 vehicles per day volume.
“Basically, we have done everything to make sure we can viably operate Skyway 3 right away, so we can serve motorists and fulfill our goal, which is to lessen traffic in Metro Manila and hopefully, through better connectivity, create more jobs and economic opportunities for more Filipinos. This is really a team effort, and we need to work together for our country succeed,” Ang said.
The pushing of the opening of Skyway 3 was a late Christmas gift to motorists which made a 20-minute drive from Quezon City to Makati City and vice versa a long-awaited reality.