By Miguel Camus
Despite the losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the worst economic recession in decades, tollroad operators San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. declared an eight-hour toll holiday for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
SMC president Ramon S. Ang said in a statement that SMC had been waiving tolls on all the five expressways it operates for the past few years.
“This year will be no exception. We’re still implementing the toll holiday, although, because of the pandemic, we know we are all asked to minimize contact with others outside our immediate families,” Ang said. “We still thought to open the expressways because it has become part of our commitment to motorists, and a way for us to give a little Christmas cheer,” he added. SMC operates the South Luzon Expressway, Metro Manila Skyway, NAIA Expressway, Southern Tagalog Arterial Road, and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway.
On the other hand, the other toll operator, Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., a subsidiary of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., operates the North Luzon Expressway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, Cavite Expressway, and Cavite-Laguna Expressway.
Both companies will waive the collection of tolls from 10 p.m. of Dec. 24 through 6 a.m. of Dec. 25. It will again be implemented from 10 p.m. of Dec. 31 through 6 a.m. of Jan. 1. Metro Pacific Tollways president and CEO Rodrigo Franco said the toll holiday was a “simple treat” for its customers even as he assured the public that the expressways were ready for the expected surge in traffic volume.
He said the necessary traffic assistance measures and emergency medical services were in place. Construction and lane closures along the expressways’ mainline had also been suspended until Jan. 5 unless safety repairs were necessary.
Earlier, SMC waived toll fees for medical front-liners at all its expressways amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The total waived fees in the nine months through Dec. 20 reached P138 million, the conglomerate said. “This privilege will still extend indefinitely. This year has been quite difficult for our country, and for all of us Filipinos. Through it all, our front-liners have worked tirelessly and selflessly to save lives and help contain this virus,” Ang said.
According to data from SMC Infrastructure, a total of 10,402 medical front-liners, including doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians, enjoy the special privilege. All have been issued special toll-free radio-frequency identification tags that allow them to pass any of SMC’s expressways for free.
Aside from providing free toll for medical front-liners, SMC subsidiaries SMC Infrastructure and Petron Corp. have also provided free fuel for various shuttle service programs initiated by the government for medical workers.
Throughout the height of the health crisis, SMC had emerged as among the top contributors to pandemic-related efforts, with its total COVID-19 relief package reaching over P13 billion. INQ