by Erlindo Agwilang Jr with Ofelia C. Empian
The Special Committee on North Luzon Growth Quadrangle approved House Bill 4570, a measure seeking to abolish toll gates and the imposition of fees along the Baguio-Bontoc Halsema Highway National Toll Road.
These tollgates are located along Kennon Road and Halsema Highway at Acop, Tublay. These are the only toll gates in the county’s national highway system.
Mountain Province Rep. Maximo Dalog, main sponsor of the bill reiterated the need to unburden the motorists, particularly the farmers regularly using the route to transport vegetables and farm products, from toll fee collection.
He said imposition of toll fees signifies double collection considering that the government imposes Motor Vehicle User’s Charge to motor vehicle owners.
The motor vehicle user’s charges are collected and deposited in special trust accounts in the national treasury.
The trust accounts include the Special Road Support Fund and the Special Local Road Fund, which are used by the Department of Public Works and Highways for the maintenance and improvement of primary and secondary roads throughout the country.
Of the 28 committee members, only Baguio Rep. Mark Go was opposed to the measure saying there is no compelling reason to terminate the collection of fees.
Although in favor, Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan and Kalinga Rep. Allen Jesse Mangaoang who are also co-authors of the bill said they were concerned about the 12 current employees who may be displaced once the toll gates are abolished.
Rep. Luisa Lloren Cuaresma of Nueva Vizcaya was quick to guarantee that the employees affected will not be removed as they can be easily absorbed by their mother unit in the Department of Public Works and Highways considering that their positions are plantilla items.
After hearing all the positions and comments of the committee members present and resource persons from the DPWH, HB 4570 was approved subject to the compliance of the agency to resolve the issue over the 12-plantilla positions that will be affected.
Also submitted to the committee were manifestations and resolutions supporting the abolition from the local government units of Mountain Province, Benguet and Baguio City namely: the City Council and Association of Barangay Councils of Baguio City; City Councilors League of Tabuk City; Governor and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Benguet, with the positions of Sangguniang Bayan of Benguet towns Mankayan, La Trinidad, Kabayan, and Buguias.
Also submitted are the resolutions of Governor and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Mountain Province together with the various Sangguniang Bayan of its towns Sagada, Besao, Sadanga, and Bontoc.