Solons, LGUs press stop to toll fees in Cordillera

>> Monday, January 30, 2017

By Erlindo Agwilang

DESPITE OPPOSITION from the Department of Public Works and Highways and Rep. Marquez Go of Baguio City, two measures seeking to abolish collection of toll fees along national toll roads gained support from government units of Mountain Province and Benguet, including legislators who are members of the special committee on North Luzon growth quadrangle.
In the entire Philippines, only Cordillera Administrative Region has a national toll road collecting P15 from all motor vehicles plying the Baguio-Bontoc and Kennon Roads.
Earlier, Rep. Maximo B. Dalog of the lone district of Mountain Province filed House bills 4570 and 4571asking Congress to terminate the collection of fees in three toll gates located at Camps 1 and 6 both in Tuba, Benguet and in Acop, Tublay, Benguet.
At the congressional committee hearing Jan. 24, DPWH-CAR legal officer Maria Dionesia Guillermo in her presentation, said the toll fee collections in the previous years have been sufficient to cater to immediate needs for road repair, improvement and maintenance of the national toll roads in the Cordillera, including operation of toll facilities. “Several projects have been implemented previously without delay as their funding was made available by virtue of the toll fee collections,” Guillermo, a lawyer said.
However, Rep. Ronald Cosalan of Benguet, co-author of the measures said generally, the funding for maintenance of these highways does mainly come from the toll fees collected but from requested quick response funds like calamity funds from the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.
Cosalan said despite the total amount collected at P33 million and P40 million in 2015 and 2016 respectively, there was no information that said amounts were used for maintenance and improvement of Cordillera highways particularly that of Kennon Road and the Baguio-Bontoc Road.
“With or without the collection of toll fees, we can still request from the national government for funds to maintain these roads,” he added.
Rep. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma of Nueva Vizcaya shared the same observation saying Dalton Pass, a zigzag road connecting Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija which is prone to landslides and disasters is being maintained very well by the district engineering office even if there are no toll fees collected therein.
Rep. Vini Nola Ortega of the Abono Party-list said the amount being collected at P30 round trip from farmers is too much, therefore expressed her support to the bills.
Rep. Pablo Ortega of La Union likewise backed the bill and suggested that Congress can actually increase the budget of DPWH-CAR or at least allocate a special budget to maintain the two national highways.
Meanwhile, several resolutions have been enacted and submitted to the House of Representatives strongly supporting House Bills 4570 and 4571.
Among those local government units who expressed solid support are: Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Mountain Province, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Benguet, the Sangguniang Bayan of La Trinidad, Benguet and the municipality of Sagada, Mountain Province.
Lacwasan, in his letter to the committee said it is high time for Congress to declare the said roads as toll-free.

“The affected motorists who are mainly from the Cordillera Region should not suffer further for they had contributed so much, through payment of toll, to maintain national roads for 62 years since the toll was imposed in 1954,” he added. 


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