by Ofelia C. Empian
The Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Benguet has passed a resolution supporting the bills filed by Mountain Province representative Maximo Dalog Sr. that seek to end the collection of toll fees along Kennon Road and Baguio-Bontoc Road.
House bills 4570 and 4571 seek to repeal Executive Order 34, s. 1954 issued by then President Ramon Magsaysay on June 1, 1954 which mandated the collection of toll fees in the Baguio-Bontoc-Halsema Highway national toll road situated in Camp 1 and Camp 6 in Tuba and Acop, Tublay.
“The termination of the toll fees would be to the interest of the constituents of Benguet who are mostly using the national highway system,” said Board Member Reuben Paoad during the board’s discussion.
Paoad, a former mayor of Tublay, said it is worthwhile to support the proposals since the present system is “indeed charging vehicles twice as stated by Congressman Dalog.”
According to the proposed House measures, the Cordillera “has a national toll road” in the country. Further, with the passage of the Republic Act 8794 or the law imposing a motor vehicle user’s charge on all types of motor vehicles, he said it would appear that motorists traversing these highways are being charged twice.
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 that are used by the Department of Public Works and Highways for the maintenance and improvement of primary and secondary roads throughout the country.
Dalog stated in the bill that those directly affected by this toll collection along the Baguio-Bontoc Halsema Highway are indigenous peoples either as simple or regular travelers, especially small time farmers. He said farmers use the road since it is the most convenient route for the farmers going to the Trading Post and the fastest route to Metro Manila. He said this would create a “domino effect” where the prices of vegetable produce would be increased.
It would also increase the fare of commuters riding public utility vehicles, including the delay of travel along the stretch of the road “as motorists and all vehicles have to queue before the toll gate to pay toll fees,” he said.
Dalog said the toll fees collected also are not retained in the area to be used for its maintenance because these are remitted to the national fund.