THE President’s son, Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo of Pampanga, on Sunday sought a congressional inquiry into the delay in the completion of his mother’s pet project in Central Luzon, the Subic-Tarlac Expressway Project (SCTEP).
Arroyo, at the same time, urged concerned agencies like the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to speed up the completion of the project saying, “Whatever delay is disadvantageous to the countryside.”
“I hope that the government agencies concerned like the NEDA will be able to pay its attention to this very vital project, which is expected to benefit our entrepreneurs . . . which is expected to bring progress and commerce,” he said in a telephone interview.
Arroyo said the continued delay in the project’s completion defeats its purpose, which is to propel economic growth and progress not only in Central Luzon but throughout the country as well.
He said that the project has been delayed for 22 months now, long enough after the NEDA approved the project at a cost of P15.247 billion in October 1999.
The P27-billion project, which is the seventh on the Arroyo administration’s 10-point agenda, is supposed to link the Subic Freeport in Zambales and the Clark Air Base in Pampanga to Tarlac.
It is expected to transform Central Luzon into an “economic superstar” by turning the region into an international transshipment hub and logistic center. It is also projected to create jobs and decongest Metro Manila.
The Bases Conversion Development Authority has been wanting to execute the project, but its efforts are being hampered by the insistence of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri to have the project rebidded and redesigned so it would interconnect with the existing North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).
Neri sought to rebid the project owing to the BCDA’s alleged “procedural lapses,” an assertion that Rufo Colayco, BCDA president, strongly denied. Colayco said the Lopez-controlled Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) stands to benefit from the rebidding.
Congressman Arroyo is among the signatories to an open letter to President Arroyo urging her “to instruct the project’s implementing agency, the Bases Conversion Development Authority and the National Economic Development Authority, to urgently resolve causes of delay so that the project can take off soon.”
Arroyo, along with other local officials, expressed alarm over the delay. “We have long waited for the completion of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project, Madame President. We are very much concerned by the rapid and inevitable increase in the cost of project materials, and the fact that people in the region are already proposing for possible extensions of the road project to the northern and eastern sides. . . We cannot help but be anxious by the delay in the project’s implementation especially because we want to keep the momentum.
“We appeal to you, Madame President, to help us realize our aspirations the soonest possible time with the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway,” read the letter, which was also signed by Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Gov. Mark Lapid of Pampanga, Vice Gov. Joseller Guiao, Rep. Francis Nepomuceno and Archbishop Paciano Aniceto of the Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga.
The letter also said that the four-lane 94.5-kilometer expressway, when completed, will be the backbone of a new economy in Central Luzon, creating the impetus for economic growth through efficient access to the seaport and airport. The project is also designed to provide the shortest, direct and efficient link among vital development areas in the region: The Central Techno Park in Tarlac, Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga and Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales.
“This in turn will help the region transform a globally competitive agro-industrial-logistical complex,” the officials said in the letter.
The other signatories to the open letter are Dennis Pineda, president of the Mayors’ League of Pampanga; Mayor Carmelo Lazatin of Angeles City; Mayor Oscar Rodriguez of San Fernando City; Mayor Exequiel Gamboa of Porac; Levy P. Laus, president of the PCCI in Pampanga; Renato Romero, private sector representative for Trade and Industry-Regional Development Council in Central Luzon;
George Sorio, president of Clark Investors and Locators Association; Rolando Peña, president of Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Willy Ong, president of Filipino-Chinese Chamber-Angeles City; Carmen McTavish, chair of Clark Investors and Locators Association; Catalina Saplala, co-chair of the Regional Development Council in Central Luzon; Renato Tayag, private sector representative for agriculture-RDC in Central Luzon; Rosemarie Herrera, spokeswoman for Citizens’ Movement for Federal Philippines-Central Luzon and Charito Sebastian, professor of Economics, UP Extension Program-Pampanga.