Solon seeks probe on toll fee hike
The Toll Regulatory Board could face a congressional probe allegedly for approving an ‘anomalous toll fare increase for the North Luzon Expressway and the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate filed House Resolution 1435 asking the Committee on Transportation to conduct an investigation in aid of legislation on the provisional P0.25 per kilometer and P0.67 per kilometer toll hike of NLEX and STAR, which took effect on Monday, Nov. 6.
The TRB, however, said that the final toll increase is still subject to further hearings in order to give oppositors the chance to air their side.
In his resolution, Zarate accused the TRB of committing grave abuse of discretion in approving the Supplemental Toll Operations Agreement it entered with the owners of the expressways, as it was made without prior notice and public hearing as required in Section 3(d) of Presidential Decree No. 1112.
Zarate said the STOA specifies the fixed rate and amount of toll fees for the 25-year contract between the TRB and the expressways. It is also in the STOA where the proposed toll fees are specified.
But Section 3(d) of the Presidential Decree No. 1112 states that before toll rates may be issued, modified and promulgated, there must be prior notice and public hearing “to approve or disapprove the petitions for the increase.” “[T]he fixed toll rates are predetermined, thereby negating the legal procedure for toll increases as stipulated in Section 3 of PD No. 1112,” the resolution read.
Zarate added that as parties involved in the STOA refuse to disclose the contents of the contract, suspicions of over-collection and over-compensation favoring expressway owners become more apparent.
“[T]he TRB appears to have failed to protect the interest of the Filipino people by entering into a contract which charges exorbitant toll fees,” he said in the resolution.
“This action puts undue economic pressure on the road users, particularly the ordinary commuters, who use these expressways daily, as excessive toll fee increases result in proportional fare hikes,” he added.
Zarate argued that there should be an accounting of the toll fees collected from the start of the contract until the time of the new toll hike in order to see if the collections went overboard.
The TRB and expressway owners must likewise reveal the pertinent sections of the contract to check if the fixed toll fees are justified and favorable for expressway users, he added.
“[T]he government should stop these wanton increase in rates as it would be an additional burden to the people who are already bearing the brunt of high prices of basic services and would just redound to enormous profits of the expressways owners given that it is an automatic increase even if the expressways owners are already earning billions in toll collections,” the resolution read.