METRO Pacific Investment Corp.’s (MPIC) P18-billion North Luzon Expressway (NLEX)-South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) connector road project will be open for bidding after a government decision to subject the proposed four-lane expressway to a Swiss challenge.
Ramon Fernandez, Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) president, told reporters that government is indeed returning the project proposal, which will be open to a Swiss challenge.
A Swiss challenge is a form of public procurement that requires a government agency that has received an unsolicited bid for a public project or services to publish the bid and invite third parties to match or exceed it.
“We are disappointed,” Fernandez said, explaining that the project would help solve traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
Earlier, Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC) and MPIC signed an agreement for the construction of the connector road under similar terms as the existing MPIC concession rights for the operation of NLEX through the Manila North Tollways Corp (MNTC).
MPIC had proposed a 13.4-kilometer, four-lane expressway from Caloocan City to Makati City that will link the North and South Luzon expressways.
Last March 31, MNTC said that it might raise P10 billion in the fourth quarter this year to help finance the project. The company had cited two options: to create a new joint venture (JV), or to pursue the project using the existing franchise and amend the current Supplemental Toll Operations Agreement (STOA).
The MNTC earlier said that the directive from the government is to do a JV with PNCC.
PNCC holds the franchise for North Luzon Expressway and the South Luzon Expressway, while MNTC holds the STOA for Segment 9 and 10 of NLEX.
Segment 9 is a 2.4-kilometer portion linking the NLEX to McArthur Highway, and Segment 10 is a 5.65-kilometer road from Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City going to the North Harbor.
MNTC president Rodrigo Franco, meanwhile, said that the firm is seeking to raise P10 billion after getting the Toll Regulatory Board’s (TRB) approval of the Supplemental Toll Operations Agreement.
The Department of Justice (DOJ), however, ruled that pursuing the project as a joint venture was “without factual basis or jurisdiction,” and called for reinstating the project as an unsolicited proposal subject to a Swiss challenge.
Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson said that the DOJ opinion prompted government to bring the proposal back to the proponent and treat it as unsolicited proposal open to a Swiss challenge.