From his home in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, Leo de la Cruz is always traversing the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) going to his work in a recording studio in Quezon City. It usually takes him two hours to travel, but with the Skyway Stage 3 opening, his travel time was cut to 45 minutes.
“I was at ease traveling from Laguna to Quezon City because of the Skyway, but that was when it was open for free. Now that it started collecting toll (on 12 July), which are a bit costly for me, I had to avoid using it, or else I will go over my allotted budget for the day,” De la Cruz recounted.
“So what I do now is I make sure to leave the house two hours before my time starts in the office. If I want to go there faster and use Skyway, I might have to sacrifice buying lunch and I don’t want to do that,” he added.
De la Cruz, 27, is using his family car. He said aside from his expenses for gas and food, he has to shell out an additional P528 for the toll fee of his Class 1 vehicle if he wants to use the Skyway.
As approved by the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), the toll fee for Class 1 vehicles going to and from Quezon Avenue was set at P264. The fees for Class 2 Vehicles are twice the amount of Class 1 and thrice for Class 3.
According to Laguna-based Christopher Sy, who works as an IT Head Officer in Makati, using the Skyway is not a problem for him only because his car was issued by his company and he has an additional transportation allowance.
“I just got lucky because my company was generous to offer me a company car. But using the Skyway every working day is still a bit expensive for me,” he said.
Sy, 29, is a father of three children. He said paying for additional toll fees is still be burdensome for him.
“I may have a high position in the office but I am still living from paycheck to paycheck. Aside from my family, I also support the maintenance medicine of my mother. If I can save at least an extra P300 a day just by avoiding Skyway, I would do that,” he added.
The San Miguel Corporation (SMC) said it worked with the TRB to arrive at toll rates that are much lower than the original toll fee matrix — particularly for vehicles traveling shorter distances.
The Skyway O&M, the operator of the Skyway Stage system under SMC Infrastructure, said the toll fees will provide company revenues to ensure operations and maintenance. The government will also generate income from the fees as it collects 12 percent value-added tax.
SMC reported a total of P246 million in waived fees spanning over 15 months. The company has spent P80 billion or almost double the original cost to complete the project.
Consumer sentiment imminent
Laban Konsyumer Inc. (LKI) president Atty. Vic Dimagiba underscored that consumer sentiment against the toll fee collected by Skyway O&M was understandable.
However, Dimagiba noted that the toll fee for the road project was legally processed by the TRB.
“Any toll fee for road projects passes the TRB hearing and processing. EDSA is the shortest route between north and south and motorists use EDSA for that purposes,” Dimagiba told the Daily Tribune.
“Those using Skyway and alternative routes serve their specific needs and should be willing to pay the fee since those could be the shortest route for that specific purpose,” he added.
He also noted that EDSA, which was supposed to be decongested by the Skyway, still remains the “main thoroughfare” of the Metro Manila.
Fulfilled or broken promise?
Despite the persistent traffic jam in EDSA, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) reiterated decongesting the superhighway is still among the priority projects of the administration. It noted that the Skyway Stage 3 is not the lone project that would ease the traffic flow in EDSA.
Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran said the DoTr will fulfill its promise to alleviate the daily ordeal of Filipino commuters.
“The good thing about EDSA now is that it became more friendly for commuters who ride the buses from Monumento to PITX.
Before the establishment of the EDSA Busway, travel time from Monumento to PITX via bus was 3 to 4 hours. Now, it’s just 50 mins to 1 hour,” Libiran said in a text message.
Before the president steps down from office, the DoTr is targeting to partially operate, if not fully open, some big-ticket projects essential in declogging EDSA.
Libiran said two projects in the railway sectors are up for completion and/or partial operation by the end of this year: the common station and the MRT-3 rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, ongoing projects that are set for trial run before 2022 include MRT-7, Metro Manila Subway, LRT-1 Cavite Extension, PNR Clark Phase 1 and Phase 2.