he much needed rehabilitation and upgrading of the congested South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) will start in mid August. The immediate implementation comes after an agreement reached between tollway operator Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) and MTD Manila Manila Expressway Corporation (MMEC), after the latter complied with the requirement of the PNCC to deposit $2.5-million as advanced fund for the project.

The 11B-Peso project will consist of the Alabang Viaduct Rehabilitation and expansion, labeled TR1 to commence in September; the expansion and rehabilitation of the Alabang to Calamba stretch, labeled TR2 to commence in August; and the extension of the expressway from Calamba to Sto. Tomas, Batangas, a 7.8-kilometer extension from Calamba to the Star Tollway, labeled TR3 to commence in October.

"Estimated construction time for all the projects will be 24 months upon commencement. This estimated was made assuming that all government permits and right-of-way are obtained in a timely manner," said MMEC President Mark Dumol.

"The time savings alone will be worth more than the amount of the project. A study conducted by the University of the Philippines estimated that unnecessary traffic on the SLEX costs the country about two billion Pesos in lost time and productivity. This amount does not even cover the additional energy cost from fuel consumed in traffic," commented Mr. Noel Kintanar, Vice-Chairman and President of the PNCC.

The Malaysian-based MTD group, is composed of four publicly-listed companies in the KL Stock Exchange, two of which are involved in International infrastructure development, the group is the second biggest tollway operator in Malaysia and is also involved in International tollway operations.

MMEC was also quick to point out that no Philippine government financing or sovereign guarantees will be involved in the project other than financing of right-of-way acquisition which is mandated by law.

"Financing of the project will be done by the MTD group through equity which would consist of 30%, while the remaining 70% will come from long-term loan, most likely from the International Finance Corporation, which is part of the World Bank Group. MTD will be providing interim financing through internal sources," said Mr. Azmil Kahlili Khalid., Managing Director of the MTD Equity Group.

"Additional toll costs will of course be charged, due to the additional costs of the expansion project. But we guarantee that we will still have the lowest per kilometer rate compared to other tollways in the country," Mr. Kintanar pointed out.

The PNCC also assured the public that they have already studied traffic rerouting schemes which will cause minimal disruption to traffic during the course of the project.