Batangas officials, motorists surprised by STAR toll hike

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THE Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) started implementing on Monday new rates at the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR).

Locals who use the toll road daily were surprised when they were told of the increased toll only upon payment. A collector commented they were also informed of the rate change only that same day.

Local officials claimed they were not told of the increase and were not invited to any public hearing.

“(I am) not aware of any public hearing or consultation regarding the STAR toll fee increase. I’m surprised myself,” said Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu of the 2nd district of Batangas adding that he is considering filing a resolution asking the proper congressional committee to investigate the matter.

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Batangas Gov. Hermilando Mandanas said he is writing the TRB to seek clarifications on the toll hike.

Meanwhile, Batangas Vice Gov. Sofronio Ona said the new toll increase was taken up in the provincial board’s session on Monday.

“We were also surprised by the rate adjustment. We will find out in the committee hearing if everything is above board,” he said.

They said the STAR management will be invited to shed light on the matter during the next session.

STAR spokesman Tony Reyes has been sought for comment but has not responded to text messages or calls.

TRB earlier approved a P0.67 provisional increase for STAR based on the request of its operator San Miguel Corp. (SMC).

While the final toll increase is subject to further hearings to hear oppositions, the public will shoulder the provisional increase now until it is proven there is no basis for the toll hike.

The powers and duties of the board as stated in Section 3(d) of the Toll Operation Decree as published in the TRB website states that they can issue, modify and promulgate from time to time the rates of toll that will be charged the direct users of toll facilities and upon notice and hearing, to approve or disapprove petitions for the increase thereof, a provision that the body may have overlooked prior to implementing the new toll hike.

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