Late afternoon yesterday, March 15, 2021, a social media and webpage post by SOMCO (the company that handles the management of Skyway 3 for San Miguel Corporation) said they are closing Skyway 3 due to an order by the Toll Regulatory Board or TRB.
The reason alluded to in the posted art card, because there was no direct implication that it was the cause, was because Skyway 3 needed to finish all ramps connecting to the 2nd level highway.
This morning, March 16, 2021, upon being asked on our Viber chat group, the Department of Transportation or DOTr said the TRB has not issued any such order to SMC and Skyway.
Ramon Ang was also quickly quoted by media saying he was directly talking to DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade about this but that he ordered no closure for Skyway 3.
Of course the public backlash of the situation was immediately felt and the brunt of the criticism fell on the DOTr. I actually posted something to the effect of blaming TRB.
So this morning I went and called everyone I knew just to figure out what was going on, why SOMCO would issue such a statement and why TRB would deny it. Just to be fair to everyone.
Here is what I got:
SOMCO has been asking the TRB if they can now charge toll for the use of the Skyway 3 to which TRB said they have yet to complete the service of the elevated highway before they can charge proper toll.
TRB said before that they cannot allow Skyway 3 the full amount of toll fee schedule they want because not all of the highway ramps have been opened and they cannot approve partial toll rates since they will be the ones to get criticized if they implement partial toll fees as ramps are opened.
A source from both camps told us that this exchange has been going on since January and that SOMCO claims they have been incurring huge losses for their failure to collect toll for the elevated highway.
At some point, a SOMCO executive decided to force the hand of TRB by issuing the statement yesterday claiming that it is the order of TRB. We do not know if Mr. Ang approved of this tactic.
TRB told us directly that there has been no order from them about the closure of Skyway and that in fact it is to their advantage, public relations wise, to keep the 2nd level highway open for free.
Our source said the SOMCO executive thought this would finally give them the leverage to collect tolls without finishing the ramps but ended up with a very stubborn DOTr.
Also read: SMC opens 2 new Skyway ramps
The situation ended up with Ang and Tugade agreeing that the Skyway will remain open and toll free until matters can be settled properly.
So was it a bluff game that backfired but still made government the culprit? I’m still looking into that.