THE waiting game between Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) has pushed the conglomerate to file a second arbitration case against the government on the long overdue approval of toll rate adjustments.
MPIC through its toll road operation unit Cavitex Infrastructure Corp. (CIC) on Friday issued a Notice of Arbitration and Statement Claim to TRB after the government apparently put off the approval of toll rate adjustment petitions that were filed a couple of years ago.
“The notice has been sent. And similar to NLEX [North Luzon Expressway] we will wait for a reply from the government. They will have to nominate their arbitrator,” Rodrigo E. Franco of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), MNTC and CIC’s parent company, told reporters at the sidelines of agreement signing in Cebu City Friday.
Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC), an MPIC sub-unit that operates NLEX and the Sublic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) together with CIC, also an MPIC sub-unit in charge of the operations of Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX), requested toll rate adjustments from the TRB in 2012 and 2014.
However, the TRB has not yet acted on any of the petitions the conglomerate filed.
The adjustments, had they been approved by the TRB, should have been implemented in 2012, 2014 and 2015, and would have allowed CIC to implement an increase of up to 16 percent.
MPIC noted that the requests for adjustments are consistent with the existing Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement (STOA).
CIC is asking the government for P877 million in compensation for the TRB’s “inaction on lawful toll rate adjustments.”
“Similar to NLEX, the claim will continue to grow until the amount is settled.” Franco explained.
On April 5, MPTC through MNTC, the operator of NLEX and SCTEX, issued an arbitration notice to TRB for the long-delayed approval of toll rates for the two toll roads in the north.
MPTC even deferred the filing of the arbitration, granting the government’s request for a 90-day grace period to try to reach an amicable settlement.
At this point, Franco said that the group would await the government’s reply. The TRB would have to nominate their arbitrator.
MPTC’s arbitrator will be Ex-Supreme Court Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura.
For its part, TRB consultant Dante Suansing said that the government body is still hopeful about reaching a solution that would not require an arbitration case.
“We respect and expected this [filing of arbitration case]to happen,” Suansing said.
“But right now we are crafting a solution that will be acceptable to the concessionaires and at the same time complies with the Supreme Court decision.” he further said.
Suansing was referring to the 2010 case of Francisco versus TRB, which held that any toll increase must be deemed “just and reasonable.”
Suansing explained, however, that the TRB is in a race against time with just 72 days left before the end of the incumbent administration.
“At the rate this is moving it could extend up to the next administration.” he said.