Nlex operator to set aside P19 billion for capex

THE operator of the North Luzon Expressway (Nlex) plans to allocate roughly P19 billion in capital expenditures (capex) for 2018, should it arrive with a “satisfactory resolution” of its tariff adjustment claims with the government this year.

Nlex Corp. President Rodrigo E. Franco said the amount will help resolve the daily traffic bottlenecks in Metro Manila, as it will be used to expand and extend the expressway this year.

“The amount is an estimate that assumes the satisfactory resolution of the tariff adjustments, for which constructive discussions with the government are still ongoing,” he said. “The figure will still be subject to review and adjustment depending on the results of the discussions on the tariff.”

The company has roughly P6 billion in claims from the delayed implementation of tariff adjustments in toll fees as of August 2017. The amount could have increased as of press time.

Nlex Corp. sought in April 2016 the intervention of an arbitration court for the settlement of the foregone toll revenues due to the government’s inaction to petitions for adjustments of the expressway operator.

The toll regulator has not acted on the company’s three petitions for the rate increase for the Nlex, one filed in 2013, another in 2015 and one this year. Accumulated, the increase would account to a 21-percent adjustment over the course of seven years.

The concession that the Pangilinan-controlled company holds allows for toll adjustments every two years.

Current toll fees on the thoroughfare (from Mindanao Avenue to Santa Ines) amount to P218 for Class 1 vehicles (cars, jeepneys, pickup trucks and vans); P544 for Class 2 vehicles (two-axle trucks, buses and vans); and P652 for Class 3 vehicles (trucks and trailers with three or more axles).

Franco noted that this year’s capex will be used to finance projects that are under the “Build, Build, Build” Program of the Duterte administration, namely: the Harbor Link Segment 10 and the Connector Road.

Segment 10 is a 5.7-kilometer (km) elevated expressway traversing Nlex from Smart Connect Interchange and crossover Mac Arthur Highway in Valenzuela City with down ramps along C3/5th Avenue Interchange in Caloocan City. It is expected to be opened some time this year.

It is estimated that around 40,000 vehicles traversing the Ports of Manila and the Nlex daily will benefit from the Harbor Link and help decongest the narrow streets of Manila.

The Connector Road, on the other hand, is an 8-km all elevated expressway extension that will connect the Nlex with the South Luzon Expressway. It will be constructed above the existing Philippine National Railways tracks from the C3/5th Avenue Interchange in Caloocan City to the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Santa Mesa, Manila. The road is expected to be completed in 2021. The company is also undertaking the capacity expansion of the 8-km Subic Freeport Expressway, constructing 16 new lane kilometers and thus boosting Subic port as a prime logistics hub.

It also began the construction of a new expressway service facility and rest area along Kilometer-17 Southbound of the Nlex, called the Nlex Drive and Dine, a 15,000-square meter retail facility.

The company is also pursuing two major traffic decongestion projects in Mabalacat City, Pampanga, such as the new Santa Ines Interchange and the new Mabiga Interchange this year.

“These investments are aimed at supporting the government’s initiatives to ease the daily traffic woes of our commuters, drive commerce, and are part of our continuing commitment to further ensure safe and convenient travel in our expressways and maintain our high-quality service” Franco said.

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