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It’s the “link” millions of us harried Metro Manila motorists have been missing for years. Who would have thought a company that has made billions from alcoholic beverages would finally see to its completion? (In this case, we’ll make the exception to the saying alcohol and cars don’t mix).

Turning a blind eye to the irony of it all for just a moment, let’s then take this time to celebrate a milestone in Philippine public works history. The two have finally been linked—that is, the north and south Luzon expressways—via the elevated 18-km Skyway 3 expressway. Its principal builder San Miguel Corp will open the stretch to the public this December, and motorists can drive happily to their hearts’ content (at hopefully up to 80 to 100 kph, or maybe just even 60 kph) from one end to the other absolutely for free for a month.

If Santa Claus was Pinoy, no doubt he’d want to use this while the freebie lasts. Once the Skyway 3 payment system kicks in, however, a 2014 Toll Regulatory Board estimate of P11 charge per km of the 18-km stretch would amount to nearly P200, not exactly loose change for the ordinary motorist, but something we’re sure many who consider time worth more its weight than gold would happily part with.

Ramon S. Ang, SMC president and CEO, announced in his Facebook post that the company was confident that it would be able to open Skyway 3 by December. This, despite continuous rains hampering finishing works, including the laying and proper curing of asphalt.

Skyway 3 will reduce the usual two-hour travel time from the SLEX to the NLEX to only 30 minutes, as announced by Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar last week. Villar was quoted as saying during the “Laging Handa” briefing that with the Skyway 3, over 50,000 vehicles per day will be decongested from Edsa, and that it is part of the Edsa decongestion program of President Rodrigo Duterte.

According to the DPWH website, the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 Project (MMSS3) is an elevated expressway from Buendia, Makati City to the North Luzon Expressway in Balintawak, Quezon City.

In a press statement, it was explained that the project, which took six years to complete due to numerous challenges, including right-of-way issues and major changes to its design and alignment, is seen to greatly improve travel times and traffic conditions in and around Metro Manila.

For over a year now, SMC also partially opened for public use the Buendia to Plaza Dilao section of Skyway 3. It has remained open and free for use.

“We’re very proud and excited about this project, because it will truly make a big difference to so many people’s lives—especially with our economy slowly opening up and with more vehicles coming back to our roads,” Ang said in a press statement.

Ang added: “While we’re still doing a few finishing works, we want the public to be able to use Skyway 3 already and benefit from the convenience and ease of travel that it will bring. We have all waited long for this project, so this is the best way we can welcome everyone, by making Skyway 3 free for one month.”

The press statement also described that this highway “seamlessly connecting” the SLEX with the NLEX, will also serve as an alternative to Edsa, with its eight access points that traverse Makati, Manila, San Juan, and Quezon City.

These access points include Buendia, Plaza Dilao, Nagtahan, Aurora Boulevard, Quezon Avenue, Sgt. Rivera, Balintawak, and NLEX.

Ang also thanked all stakeholders and government partners for their contributions to making Skyway 3 a reality. Privately funded and built by SMC, Skyway 3 was completed at no cost to government, with also no guarantees or subsidies.

Ang emphasized its many long-term benefits to motorists and the economy:

“With Skyway 3, we will improve the daily commutes and lives of so many Filipinos. We will lessen their time spent in traffic on the road, we can increase both their productivity and time spent with their families,” Ang said.

“Apart from this, the transportation of goods from north and south Luzon will also be so much easier, faster, and more efficient. This will be a big boost to our economy and support growth throughout the regions,” he added.

After completing the entire structure of Skyway 3 ahead of its Oct. 31 deadline, SMC also earlier announced that it was targeting to deliver the northbound section of the Skyway extension project, which connects SLEX directly to Skyway from Susana Heights in Muntinlupa, by December.

With this, travel from Susana Heights through the Skyway system including Skyway 3, all the way to the Balintawak toll plaza of the NLEX, will only take 20 minutes, Ang said. Meanwhile, travel time from Magallanes to Balintawak will be just 15 minutes; Balintawak to NAIA will be just 15 minutes, and Valenzuela to Makati will only take 10 minutes.

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