By Gabriel L. Cardinoza | The Manila Times
November 14, 2023
SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union: The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is now accepting motions to challenge the unsolicited proposal submitted by the San Miguel Holdings Corp. (SMHC) for the construction of the Tarlac-Pangasinan La Union Expressway (TPLEx) extension from Rosario town to the surfing town of San Juan.
In a statement posted on its official website, the DPWH said it has been given the green light on Friday, November 10, by the National Economic and Development Authority Board to proceed with the Swiss challenge.
A Swiss challenge is a form of public procurement that requires a government agency, which has received an unsolicited proposal for a public project, to invite other companies to submit their bids to top that of the original proponent’s unsolicited proposal.
Without a challenger, the P23.4-billion project may be awarded to the SMHC as early as March 2024. Otherwise, the project is expected to be awarded by May 2024.
The construction of the 59.4-kilometer (km) four-lane road project is expected to be completed within five years.
The DPWH said the TPLEx extension will be constructed by segments.
The first segment will be an 18-km stretch from Rosario to Tubao town, where an interchange will be constructed and motorists bound for Baguio City can exit to the Marcos Highway.
The second segment will be 23 km long, running from Tubao to Bauang town. An interchange exiting to the Naguilian Road will also be built there.
The third and final segment will be an 18.4-km stretch from Naguilian to San Juan.
When completed, the TPLEx extension will further improve mobility between the Ilocos and Cordillera Regions, Central Luzon, and Metro Manila, reducing travel time from Rosario to San Juan from the current one and a half hour to just around 40 minutes.
Surfers from Metro Manila will be able to travel to San Juan about two hours shorter than their present travel time to the town.
At present, San Juan could be reached through a three-hour drive from Balintawak in Quezon City to the TPLEx exit in Rosario, and another two-hour drive from Rosario to San Juan via Manila North Road.
The toll road is also expected to accelerate the development of new growth hubs in Ilocos and nearby regions, while alleviating the traffic congestion in the area particularly at MacArthur Highway (Manila North Road).
The NEDA Board initially approved the TPLEx extension project on June 2, 2023, allowing DPWH to commence negotiations with the SMHC, the original proponent.
TPLEx, which is an 88.85-km expressway from Tarlac City to Rosario, began construction in 2010. With the TPLEx extension, it will now have a total length of 148.25 km.
Since its opening, an influx of tourists has been noted in tourist destinations in the provinces of Tarlac, Pangasinan and La Union.
For instance, the number of pilgrims visiting the Shrine of the Holy Face in Nampicuan town in Nueva Ecija province had increased five times because the shrine could be accessed through Anao Exit in Tarlac in just 10 minutes.
Also, the number of devotees going to Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag in Manaoag town in Pangasinan has more than tripled, with most of them spending money for hotel and food.