The TPLEX leaves a bad taste in the mouth
The Tarlac Pangasinan La Union Expressway (TPLEX) has made travelling to and from Metro Manila so easy. What used to be a seven hour trip has been reduced by half. Though we have to pay through the nose the toll way fees which are not cheap, at least we don’t have to stew under the sun in gridlock traffic wringing our fingers as our vehicles chug along. Now, the trip is express indeed.
If the TPLEX is completed, the Baguio–Metro trip could be easily done in three hours. That would be like having a long working lunch, plus a little tattle (tsismis) on the side. And the trip would be over.
Everybody happy? Not so. It turned out the landowners whose lands are now the TPLEX have not yet been paid. So while our trips to the Metro have become convenient, some folks whose land were taken have their blood pressure going sky high. They were just paid a downpayment of 30% and it seems the government is dribbling (as always) the completion of its obligation. So the landowners took to the expressway. Last week, they staged a demo on one lane of TPLEX with placards shouting for them to be paid.
Everybody knows the TPLEX is a PPP— a private-public partnership—between the government and San Miguel Corporation. The latter constructed it and is now operating it through a subsidiary. The revenues are being shared by the partners.
Upon seeing the placard bearing landowners in the media, the reaction was a bad taste in the mouth. Here is the biggest corporation of the land making big money every minute from toll way fees and yet has not yet paid the landowners. What an injustice!
The next day, San Miguel president Ramon Ang came out to say that the company wanted to advance the payment to the landowners. It turned out it was the government through the DPWH that was remiss on its duty to pay. Same old story, the government exploiting its citizens. As usual, the DPWH is saying it could pay but most of the landowners had incomplete papers. Nobobdy believes that. Anybody would have incomplete papers if the intention was to delay. You complete what were asked for and then new papers would again be demanded. That is our kind of red tape. That is our kind of government. That is what is holding us from attaining progress.
So we await the next news. Meantime, people zip by the TPLEX on their way to Baguio, clogging the city every weekend—whether long or short. And then some. The TPLEX has become a monument to government incompetence.**