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Property firms brush aside toll hike

Tuesday, 30 November 2010 00:00
By Krista Angela M. Montealegre, Reporter
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THE planned toll increase in the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) will not have a material effect on real estate sales in Southern Luzon, property firms said.
Real estate developers such as Ayala Land Inc., Eton Properties Philippines and Empire East Land Holdings, which have existing projects in Laguna, said the benefits stemming from the planned toll hike would compensate for the higher rates.
Just like any price increase in consumer goods, customers would eventually be able to adjust and shoulder any hike in toll rates, analysts also said.
“Take for example the price of oil, no matter how much its price goes up, people will still use their cars to go to work. People will be able to adjust,” said Jun Calaycay of Accord Capital Equities Corp.
“More or less, customers are already prepared to carry the burden of increase in costs,” said Astro del Castillo of First Grade Holdings.
Calaycay said most developers that have projects in the South have built integrated communities, which offer complete amenities like leisure and commercial parks and business centers so residents in the area do not have to spend much for transportation.
“The selling point for those projects is the integrated communities which may provide a balance for the toll hikes,” he said.
SLEX links Southern Luzon to Metro Manila. The Laguna area has become an attractive location for residential projects because of its proximity to Metro Manila.
“The benefits of an improved and properly maintained SLEX should outweigh the incremental increase in toll—improved driving experience, more efficient vehicle maintenance, better travel time to and from office, among other things,” Jenylle Tupaz, Alveo Land project development head, said.
ALI has a 1,750-hectare eco-community development in Canlubang, Laguna called Nuvali where Alveo has two residential projects, namely Venare and Treveia. Alveo has another development, Verdana Homes Mamplasan in Binan, Laguna.
“Alveo projects in the South offer priceless and incomparable living experiences that the market continues to value and appreciate so pretty much our sales outlook continue to be optimistic,” Tupaz said.
Antonino Aquino, ALI president, said project construction would continue regardless of an increase in tolls.
“For Eton Properties Philippines, Inc. and its flagship project Eton City, the pending toll increase in SLEX will have minimal impact on project sales,” Erwin de Pedro, Eton Properties senior assistant vice president for marketing, said.
The Lucio Tan-led real estate company has a 1,000-hectare township project in Sta. Rosa Laguna dubbed Eton City.
De Pedro said the buyers for its mid-range projects Riverbend and West Wing Residents come from the South, while consumers of the high-end South Lake Village will barely feel the toll increase.
Charlemagne Yu, Empire East president, said it would be good if costs do not increase, but this would be inevitable since the government has contractual obligations to fulfill.
“What we have to consider also is that there is a need for more infrastructure in our country. Unless we perform our end of the obligation, we may not be able to attract investors for the needed infrastructure works,” said Yu.
Empire East, a property firm owned by tycoon Andrew Tan, has the Sonoma in Sta. Rosa, and the Laguna BelAir, its first township residential development in the area.
SLEX contractor South Luzon Tollways Corp. has already been granted a new toll rate of P2.68 a kilometer for class 1 vehicles, which was scheduled for implementation in June.
Under the new matrix, the new tolls from Alabang to Calamba will be P77 from the current P22 for light vehicles, P155 from P43 for buses, and P232 from P65 for heavy trucks and trailers.
The implementation was deferred after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) based on the cases filed by several petitioners including lawyer Ernesto Francisco and Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay.
The TRO has been lifted, but the petitioners sought clarification from the Higher Court on whether the lifting of the order included the Salceda case, while the Toll Regulatory Board is conducting a review of the computation of the new rates.

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