Palace to DOTC: Clear legal hurdles to MPIC’s NLEX-SLEX connector road

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DOTC met with the Department of Justice to discuss the legal issues delaying the project

CONNECTOR ROAD. The Metro Pacific Investments group is building a toll road that will connect the North and South Luzon Expressways. File photo by AFP

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has directed the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to immediately resolve the legal hurdles hindering the construction of the P18-billion ($410.35 million) “connector road” of infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC).

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya met with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in Malacañang Thursday, June 26 to address the legal issues delaying the approval of the road that will connect the North Luzon expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon expressway (SLEX).

They need to determine whether the project should be built under the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) franchise or be subjected to a Swiss Challenge.

The connector road will not be completed before the end of the term of President Benigno Aquino III due to the delay in Malacañang approval, Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) President Ramoncito Fernandez, previously said. The MPIC unit was expecting the nod of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) by the first quarter of 2014.

“The President called us all together to resolve the issues. We have to do that because at the end of the day, presidential approval [is needed]. We have to protect the President by making sure what we are recommending is legally sound,” Abaya stressed.

The project will connect NLEX and SLEX via Segment 9, worth P1.9 billion ($43.31 million). Segment 9 will connect NLEX to MacArthur highway in Valenzuela City and will be completed in August. Segment 10 worth P10 billion ($227.97 million) starts from the Mindanao Avenue exit of NLEX to North Harbor and will be completed in August 2014.

NLEX will be connected to the common alignment at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Sta. Mesa and the P26.5-billion ($604.13 million) Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 project of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation.

Legal hurdle

A complaint against the project questioned the change in its mode of execution from an unsolicited proposal to a “Swiss Challenge” and then to a joint venture with PNCC.

A Swiss challenge is a form of public procurement that requires the government, which has received an unsolicited bid for a public project, to publish the bid and invite third parties to match or exceed it.

“So those are the legal questions that we passed on to the DOJ,” he added.

The DOTC chief is hopeful that the legal issues will be resolved soon.

“So we will see. We hope there is a clear, legal solution to it. I’m really interested in getting this implemented,” he said.

The MPIC group intends to raise P10 billion ($227.97 million) in the last quarter of 2014 to finance the proposed NLEX-SLEX connector road.

About 70% of the P18-billion ($410.35 million) project cost for the connector road will be financed by debt, while the remaining 30% will come from internally generated funds or cash from existing shareholders. –

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