Sunday, October 24th, 2010
LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 22 – Albay Governor Joey Salceda on Friday expressed dismay over the Supreme Court (SC) ruling allowing the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) to hike their toll way fees.
“I feel so helpless – saan na tatakbo ang ordinaryong probinsiyano for protection?” he remarked.
According to the governor, the ruling has long-term adverse economic impacts on the welfare of the province’s small viajeros who depend on Divisoria trade, or the fish dealers that rely on Navotas, and the ordinary motorists that include students studying in Metro Manila or families visiting their relatives.
Salceda said the Supreme Court has allowed three toll roads to impose an increase in their rates.
The SC allowed the North Luzon Expressway, South Luzon Expressway, and Skyway to hike their fees.
“The temporary restraining order (TRO) is lifted,” said Atty. Jose Midas Marquez, SC spokesman.
Marquez was quoted, however, as saying that it is not yet clear whether the lifting of the TRO also includes the planned toll hikes for Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway, Southern Tagalog Arterial Road, and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
Last August, the SC issued two TROs to stop the imposition of higher tollway rates and the 12-percent value added tax (VAT) on toll fees.
Marquez said the TRO on the VAT imposition remains in effect.
Salceda said the SC ruling would have an adverse impact to the province which does not have the means to recover or offset the net resource outflow of at least P480 million annually from our small economic base.
He said the ruling magically transforms a Marcosian instrument of economic disruption and social injustice into an act of liberal democratic establishment.
He however said, the SC cannot rule away the disruptive effects on fragile countryside economies and the aggravation of an already inequitable distribution of incomes and economic power.
Salceda said that considering this, “we cannot simply give up- di pa tapos ang laban (the fight is not yet over)- we will work with other groups in filing a motion for reconsideration.”
Salceda stated that his petition for TRO simply explains that “with the regulators itself a party to the toll hike, there was no one to turn to except the SC for protection against an imminent abuse.”
The governor last June asked the SC to stop the SLEX planned toll fee hike, saying “toll fees should not be increased by mere contract between the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) and its contracting parties through the Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement (STOA). Without notice and hearing, which are mandatory twin requisites of Section 3(d), P.D. 1112 (Toll Operation Decree), the increase in toll fees is null and void for the reason that such action violates a mandatory provision of law.”
Under the STOA, the South Luzon Tollways Corp. (SLTC) which holds the 25-year concession on the 30-kilometer SLEX, is to raise toll rates by 250 percent beginning 12:01 a.m. on June 30 but moved it to July 7 in deference to the inauguration of President Benigno Aquino III.
With the 250-percent increase, private passenger vehicles would be paying P2.73 per kilometer over the current 82 centavos per kilometer.
Salceda said under PD 1112, the authority of the TRB to enter into contracts, in behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, extends only to construction, operation and maintenance of toll facilities.
“Clearly, the TRB has committed a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it entered into a contract which includes, as part of its contractual provisions, the determination and fixing of toll rates, including its increase, in clear violation of its express and limited authority under PD 1112,” Salceda explained.
He said such massive increase “will prompt substantial negative consequences in the lives of ordinary citizens of the Bikol region.” (PNA)