Filipinos who traverse EDSA are in awe with the improvement in traffic along the historic highway. Thanks to the opening of the Skyway Stage 3 recently which is a game-changing project that will have significant impact on the day-to-day lives of our fellow Filipinos living in Metro Manila.

It is to the credit of the Duterte Administration and San Miguel Corporation led by its president and COO Ramon S. Ang or simply RSA that notwithstanding the difficulties the country is facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Skyway Stage 3 is finally operational. Amidst the euphoria due to the positive impact of the Skyway Stage 3, recognition must also be given to former President Fidel V. Ramos.

During the Cory Administration, Republic Act 6957, the Build-Operate-Transfer Law was enacted on 9 July 1990. It authorized the financing, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure projects by the private sector. Back then, Ramos on 5 May 1994, signed Republic Act 7718, amending the B-O-T law. The law paved way for increased private investments in infrastructure projects. It was during his presidency when government pursued aggressively the public-private partnership initiative. Infrastructure projects under the Build-Operate-Transfer and joint venture schemes were started including the South Metro Manila Skyway (SMMS) Project.

The Skyway Stage 3 that is giving Filipinos the ease of commuting from the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and vice versa is part of the SMMS Project.

To set the record straight and to do away with revisionism done by rabid Marcos supporters, the SMMS Project consists of 4 stages. Stage 1 involved the construction of the 9.5 km Buendia-Bicutan elevated tollway and the rehabilitation of the Magallanes-Alabang section of the SLEX. Construction of Stage 1 began on 7 April 1995. In December 1997, Buendia in Makati, Magallanes, Skyway Toll Plazas A and B, and Bicutan Exits were completed. In October 1999 during the incumbency of President Joseph Estrada, Stage 1 was partially opened to motorists.

CITRA, one of the contracting parties of the SMMS Project, announced on 2 April 2009 that construction of Stage 2 would commence. The continuation of Stage 1, Stage 2 is also an elevated expressway from Bicutan to Alabang over the existing alignment of SLEX spanning 6.88 kms. By June 2009 under the Macapagal Arroyo administration, new pillars and new ramps were put in place.

Stage 3 involved the construction of the Buendia-Balintawak (NLEX) elevated tollway; and, Stage 4, Metro Manila Tollway, is a component of the C-6 road at the eastern corridor of Metro Manila from Skyway at-grade section in Bicutan to NLEX in Marilao.

The project is a component of the STOA (Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement) dated 27 November 1995, approved by Ramos in April 1996, as amended on 18 July 2007, entered into by the government through the Toll Regulatory Board, CITRA and the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) in relation to the Business and Joint Venture Agreement covering the project. CITRA Metro Manila Tollways Corporation is the concession holder and operator of the Skyway Project. It is controlled by San Miguel Holdings Corp, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SMC.

According to the PNCC website, “CITRA and the Company submitted to TRB an Updated Joint Venture Investment Proposal for the said project on May 3, 2011. The TRB, pursuant to its mandate and authority granted under PD No. 1112, has reviewed, evaluated and approved the Updated Joint Venture Investment Proposal for Stage 3.”

A Supplement to the Business and Joint Venture Agreement (Supplement to BVA) governing the implementation of the Stage 3 and Stage 4 was executed on 9 January 2012. A Second Supplement to the Business and Joint Venture Agreement (Second Supplement to BJVA) containing the terms and conditions for the implementation of both projects was also executed.

On 6 September 2012, the Restated Second Supplement to the Business and Joint Venture Agreement containing the entire agreement of the parties with the final terms and conditions for the MMS were executed.

On 11 March 2013, materials and equipment for Stage 3 were being moved in preparation for the construction. It broke ground in January 2014 during the incumbency of President Benigno C. Aquino III.

The following month, construction started and programmed for completion after three years. From the original four segments, the project was modified and now has five segments. The original length of the elevated expressway which was 14 km is now 18.68 kms, also a result of modifications. Modifications had to be made to address right-of-way issues.

On 22 July 2019, a portion of Skyway Stage 3, Buendia to Paco was partially opened. Work was halted for a few months with the lockdown in 2020. However, construction resumed on 16 May 2020 in compliance with the construction safety guidelines issued by DPWH on 4 May 2020 contained in Department Order (DO) No. 35 and amended by DO No. 39 dated 19 May of the same year. In December last year, four lanes were partially opened to motorists; and by 14 January 2021, the Skyway Stage 3 was finally inaugurated by President Rodrigo Duterte with six lanes open to motorists.

In April 2019, FVR commended RSA for SMC’s commitment to undertake big-ticket infrastructure projects such as the Skyway 3 and the USD15 billion Bulacan International Airport that will generate over a million new jobs, the completed TPLEX project and others in the pipeline during a courtesy call by the latter at the former president’s Makati office. FVR described RSA as a “visionary, patriotic and strategic thinker.” Also present during the courtesy of Ang were Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) Chairman Reynaldo V. Velasco, National Tobacco Administration director Wilson Victorio, Engr. Alfredo Reyes, Freddie Jalasco and Ramos family biographer Melandrew T. Velasco.

Other projects being undertaken by SMC are water, power and the extension of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) all the way to Laoag, Ilocos Norte as well as the Pasig River Expressway and the extension of Skyway 3 from Balintawak NLEX all the way to Bulacan Airport passing through Tullahan River.

In that meeting, Ramos told Ang, “Continue with the noble task of nation building with the various flagship projects you are pushing for the country and our people. It’s seldom that we find a great Filipino, a visionary engineer and an alumnus of the Far Eastern University (FEU) like you.” FVR lauded Ang for having successfully engineered San Miguel Corporation to become one of the country’s largest conglomerates. The diversification of SMC has enabled it to participate in the government’s massive infrastructure program. From being a food and beverage manufacturing corporation, it has embarked in energy, roads, water infrastructure, and recently airports notably the P 700-billion Bulacan International Airport.

Ramos recalled that during his Presidency the privatization of infrastructure projects, whether in the water, power and transportation sectors, were done through several variations of the build-operate-and transfer schemes. This allowed the building of high-priority infrastructure projects where government does not have either the financial or managerial capacity to build and manage new facilities at the rate needed to sustain the vigor of a developing economy.

Ang told FVR that in his book, Ramos is a living Korean War and EDSA hero who fought Marcos and defended democracy from coups nine times during the Cory Aquino presidency and the milestone achievements he made in his six years as President that we all continue to enjoy today.

“Sir, you are one of kind who comes only once in our lifetime and we Filipinos are fortunate to have a leader and a statesman like you who continue to guide this nation,” Ang told FVR.

Two years after, RSA has delivered and fulfilled his promise to one of FVR’s ardent wishes which is the completion of the Skyway 3. True to his word, RSA has this say: “As the country looks forward to recover from a crisis, this commitment has not wavered. San Miguel is fully committed to helping our country overcome this crisis. A big part of that is to continue, and not hold back, on new investments.

“These projects will deliver hundreds of thousands of jobs and put money in the hands of the Filipinos – sustaining and boosting our economic recovery, even as we build for a much better future,” he added.

To paraphrase a quote, it is during difficult times when one learns who really cares; and among those living modern Filipino heroes who have shown they care is RSA.

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