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Tollway fee hike to gravely affect MSEs in Bicol - Salceda

Legazpi City (29 June) -- Bicol is making a big noise over the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) toll fee increase issue because most of the travelers are the lynchpins of the regions Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE) which account to almost all businesses in Bicol, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said.

Salceda, explaining his strong opposition to the proposed SLEx toll fee increase said, "viajeros and compradors" (travelers and traders) are the key players or the binding forces in rural markets, representing 99 percent of businesses in the region.

Bicol travelers and traders using vehicles account for only 15 percent of the total vehicular traffic at SLEx and Albay is estimated at 4 percent.

Asked why he became the prime mover against SLEx toll fee hike, Salceda admitted that it should be Batnagas and Quezon provinces that should be at the forefront of this cause but Bicol would be economically affected.

He said the 4 percent actually translates to P400 million per annum and this becomes big when compared to the province nominal aggregate household income of P18 billion using 2006 Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES).

Using only the incremental impact of the approved toll hike (4% of P9,8bn less 4% of P2.7bn), this represents a net resource transfer from our provincial economy of P280m, although small it represents a third of the provincial budget of P920 million a year.

"Being a governor, I have the mandate to manage local economic development effort to reduce poverty, the revenue lost due to the toll fee hikes is a huge resource outflow that could be saved and retained in our local economy," Salceda said.

The money could be used by our households for their basic needs and by small businesses to invest. It is quite an effort to raise revenues or to attract new investments, he said.

We are all for infrastructure modernization. But for whom? And at whose expense?

Reports have it that once a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is issued by the Supreme Court (SC) against SLEx this would send negative signals on the country's policy predictability and undermine its attraction as an investment destination.

Salceda, said it is optimistic that his petition for a TRO would be granted because: the STOA joint venture was not subjected to procurement procedures- it was neither bided out or even Swiss-challenged; and the toll fee was not subjected to notice and hearing.

The former Arroyo economic adviser said "It is the judgment call of the investor to take the intrinsic risks as a consequence of such utter lack of transparency behind such shocking quadrupling of rates. Common sense would easily tell you that such lethal combination would trigger a public outcry."

Salceda said in the six cases pending at the SC, the TRB is represented by DOJ and PNCC by OGCC.

TRB is the first party to the STOA that stipulated the toll fee per km with formula for inflationary adjustment, who then represents the people, the consumers, the motorists, the rural viajeros, the farmers in all of this, he asked. (PNA Bicol) [top]

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