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Taken for a ride

The government may not realize it, but its privatization tack for toll roads raises more questions than answers in light of how motorists are taken for a ride.

In far north, commuters are raising hue and cry over how they are being shortchanged by a foreign-backed toll road operator, despite the prying eyes of the state-run Toll Regulatory Board (TRB).

A critical look at the numbers of Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) betrays the supposedly socialized pricing policy of privatized public highways.

Pocketing profits at enormous levels smacks of callousness and corporate greed in the face of runaway inflation rate that has exacerbated a woeful life in the countryside.

Linking Manila to northern Luzon, the 94-km North Luzon Expressway typifies how contractors had turned privatization of infrastructure projects into a multi-billion pesos enterprise.

At the very least, the NLEX should serve as a benchmark, a moral compass for the government before selling off contracts to private parties.

Possible lessons range from how toll rates should be kept at a reasonable level, not beyond the means of ordinary wage earners who comprise the bulk of the daily commuters traversing through the expressway.

Not surprising why some corporate titans are locked in a bitter rivalry to corner the sale of profit-driven toll road contracts.

More than prestige, their ever-widening chase for greater wealth is also at stake.

Certainly, the proposed multi-billion pesos Cavite-Laguna Expressway would pose a challenge to those who frame its privatization, mindful of how it would affect the commuters’ daily routine –and the economic costs it would entail.

Bearing in mind the project’s multiplier effects, those at the helm of its proposed sale to the private sector must account for whatever consequence it would ensue later – adverse or favorable.

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