LINGAYEN, PANGASINAN—Ushering the manifold local infrastructure projects in the pipeline, the Pangasinan Provincial Government has officially sealed its P34 billion Joint Venture (JV) and Tollway Concession Agreements with San Miguel Holdings Corp. (SMHC) to build and operate the 42.76-kilometer Pangasinan Link Expressway (PLEX), which is expected to bolster the province’s economic and tourism growth upon its completion in the next few years.
“PLEX is a ‘game changer’ for the province of Pangasinan and for this administration. This is because it is envisioned to reinvent the transportation and tourism landscapes, prioritize accessibility of citizens to major towns and cities, magnify business and livelihood opportunities, multiply economic activities, build more infrastructures, facilitate province-wide travel and protect our environmental resources,” Governor Ramon V. Guico III said during the ceremonial signing ceremony held at the Sison Auditorium in Lingayen, Pangasinan last October 19.
The SMHC was the lone proponent of this JV initiative—the first phase of which will span from Binalonan to the capital town of Lingayen, traversing eight municipalities in Central Pangasinan. Project segments will be from Binalonan to Manaoag at 6.9 kilometers (km); Manaoag to Calasiao, 11.3 km; Calasiao area, 2.39 km; and Calasiao to Lingayen, 22.7 km.
Apart from passing an ordinance for the JV’s framework, the provincial government, on its part, will be responsible for acquiring the road right of way (ROW) and toll regulation. While the project will be fully subsidized by the SMHC, the province has already committed P1 billion for the acquisition of land.
PLEX is a four-year public-private partnership initiative. Following the closure of the deal, the proponent will engage an engineering company to do the design and prepare the ancillary of the ROW, according to San Miguel Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Ramon S. Ang.
“We will make a survey to do the right of way. But if there’s already a right of way, we can then proceed to the construction. Within 24 months, it will be finished already,” he told reporters in a briefing.
Robust business, travel
UPON the completion of PLEX, travel time from Binalonan to Lingayen is expected to be reduced from an hour-and-40 minutes to only around 20 to 30 minutes. This project will also help increase the province’s inland connectivity to facilitate the movement of people, goods, and services; as well as ease the traffic situation.
“Accessibility and mobility are very important to various investors who would like to put their investments in the province. So we expect a lot of investments and economic activities that will happen in Pangasinan once this PLEX will be operational,” Governor Guico III said.
Likewise, he expects more visitors will be enticed to come in to their “must-visit” local destinations, thus, leading to exponential growth in their arrivals.
“This will really be a crowd drawer for domestic and foreign tourists,” he emphasized. “That’s why we are creating the accessibility towards the western part of the province, where beautiful tourist destinations are. So we have to improve the travel sector also of Pangasinan.”
Doing so, the province needs to benchmark on national and global standards by bringing in more internationally-branded resorts and hotels.
“We need to upgrade because we will not only cater to domestic tourists, but also foreign visitors who can bring more income to Pangasinan, especially to our kababayans and the whole industry,” the top official said.
Per the concession deal, the province will be entitled to five percent in the toll revenues and commercial development of the expressway. Also, it will get 30 percent of the earnings before tax after SMHC has surpassed the project’s internal rate of return (PIRR) of 10 percent. If it exceeded the PIRR of 12 percent, it will then receive a share of 70 percent earnings before tax.
“After 35 years, SMHC will turn over the expressway to the province, or we can continue on with a re-operating arrangement with them,” he said. “This is our collective gift to the prosperity of Pangasinan. PLEX is one of the symbols of our connections. This is just a start of several things ahead of us.”
Seeing the success of the Binalonan-Lingayen segment, the governor is hopeful for a tie up again with the SMHC for the second phase of the project to cover Lingayen-Alaminos City in the coming years.
More ‘big ticket’ projects
Together with some local officials, the governor also bared that they have been in talks with several possible investors to strengthen further Pangasinan’s accessibility by land, air and sea. In fact, the province is investing in an airport in Bolinao. The provincial government, likewise, plans to open up the western-most part of Pangasinan for several investments in tourism, as well as establish more power plants to address its growing energy requirement.
In support of the province’s constant progress and development, SMHC has committed to further invest here. Apart from PLEX, Ang said that they are planning to expand and convert the San Roque dam into a hydropower facility producing 1,600 megawatt per hour of electricity to help lessen its price. Other projects in the pipeline, he shared, are the establishment of a big port in San Fabian or Sual that can be a cruise liner terminal, and an integrated mega poultry factory in Sison that can produce 80 million birds and has the capability to convert the animal manure into a sustainable source of waste-to-energy.
“Whatever possible projects we can do in Pangasinan, you have my word,” he said of his commitment to the provincial governor. “We will do all our part to support the province of Pangasinan.”