25 July 2011

SCTEx placed under new management

MANILA — The Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) Friday took over the operation and management of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) to pave the way for the integration of the two longest expressways in Northern Luzon — SCTEx and North Luzon Expressway (NLEx).

This, after the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) signed Wednesday a “business and operating agreement” with the MNTC to finally forge the deal on SCTEx.

“Motorists will soon enjoy the benefits of integration in the form of seamless travel between the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and the SCTEx,” said BCDA and MNTC in a statement. MNTC also operates the NLEx.

Under the agreement, MNTC will operate and manage SCTEx for 33 years, while “relieving BCDA of the heavy financial burden of paying the latter’s P34-billion debt to the JICA.”

The MNTC said that the deal paves the way for the company to provide the best services to motorists using SCTEx at par with the high standards applied on the NLEx.

The agreement for the private management and operations of the STEx, funded from a P34-million loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), will take effect in the next 33 years.

Under the deal, the MNTC will assist the SCTEx in paying for the JICA loan that will mature in 2041. This will be done by providing the SCTEx with funds to repay its JICA loan through revenue sharing and agreed-on advances during shortfalls.

"The agreement is our contribution to the public-private partnership program. We see it as innovative because it frees the government of the heavy debt-servicing burden. In other words, by virtue of this agreement, we can say the SCTEx was built at no cost for the government," BCDA chairman Felicito Payumo said.

Payumo said the pact “also assures the MNTC of a reasonable return to cover commercial risks as SCTEx’s co-concessionaire. The agreement satisfies BCDA’s requirement to cover the state firm’s debt service obligation to JICA.”

The statement also quoted MNTC chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan as saying that “the contract is truly reflective of the intentions and spirit of the partnership from the beginning.”

“MNTC’s takeover of the SCTEx signals the advent of a new era in comfortable and safe travel offered by a seamless traffic along the NLEx as strategically linked to the SCTEx that both meet world-class standards,” Pangilinan said.

BCDA president and CEO Arnel Casanova said the agreement represents a fusion of the strengths of the two partners that would ensure maximum benefits to the public and the country. “The agreement is a major breakthrough towards establishing a good model for public-private partnership.”

He explained that as SCTEx’s co-concessionaire, the MNTC will manage the entire operations and supervision of the tollway, linking Subic Freeport Zone in Zambales, Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga, and the Central Techno Park in Tarlac.

Under the agreement, MNTC will provide ancillary facilities and equipment, plus resources needed to run SCTEx efficiently, including assuring security and safety for motorists on the tollway round the clock. (Mark Anthony N. Manuel, Manila Bulletin)