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Luisita toll should stop, BCDA says

10:02 PM June 01, 2011

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) told the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) that Hacienda Luisita Inc. (HLI) should stop collecting toll for the use of a road linking the Cojuangco family-owned sugar estate in Tarlac to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

BCDA laid down this position in a meeting with TRB on Tuesday, said TRB spokesperson Julius Corpuz.

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“BCDA maintains its position that the [San Miguel] access road should be open to the public, for free, as a consideration for BCDA’s construction of the [Luisita interchange], which gives a lot of benefits to HLI, in general, and to the [Luisita Industrial Park], in particular,” Corpuz said.

TRB, he said, asked BCDA to submit a written position paper in time for its board meeting on Thursday. Corpuz said the board may render a decision after the meeting.

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Peping no-show

Arnel Casanova, BCDA president and chief executive officer, said it was TRB that asked for BCDA’s opinion on the issue, which was triggered by complaints from motorists. The matter, he said, was “primarily TRB’s jurisdiction.”

“It must be clear that [the Luisita interchange] is not for Luisita’s benefit alone but for the general public,” Casanova said. “The idea is to encourage the economic development of the area by connecting the major ecozones [in Pampanga, Zambales and Tarlac].”

However, HLI officials, including one of its owners, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr., did not appear in the meeting called by TRB.

Through a letter, Cojuangco informed the board of his absence “due to a previously scheduled hearing in Congress on the Philippine Sports Commission.”

Sports official

Cojuangco, an uncle of President Aquino, is president of the Philippine Olympic Committee.

In the same letter, he also asked TRB to postpone the meeting to June 18 when his lawyer is expected to return from an out-of-town trip.

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BCDA owns the 94-kilometer SCTEx. The project was built using P34.106 billion that was drawn from two loans from the Japanese government.

The Luisita interchange is one of 12 interchanges on SCTEx.

The San Miguel access road, built by HLI and stretching 7.5 km, is the link to the Luisita interchange and to SCTEx. The road is not within the 80 hectares bought by BCDA from HLI for SCTEx’s right-of-way.

An April 3, 2006, letter by Cojuangco’s elder brother, Pedro, HLI president, to Narciso Abaya, then BCDA president, committed to finish the road to link the Luisita Parkway (now the Luisita Industrial Park) to an interchange of the SCTEx.

Cojuangco said the road is private and excluded from TRB regulation.

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