TOLL ROAD operators are still considering a Department of Finance (DoF) proposal to exempt trucks carrying agricultural products from paying the adjusted tolls, the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) said.
“We have endorsed the proposal to toll operators and concessionaires and at this time all of them are studying how to possibly implement the exemption,” TRB Spokesperson Julius G. Corpuz told BusinessWorld by phone on Monday.
The DoF wants to exempt produce trucks from paying the adjusted toll fees as an inflation containment measure. The DoF said trucks would still have to pay the old toll without the recent adjustments.
The government has broadly tried to dampen food price pressures by, among other things, imposing a nationwide price ceiling on rice. The ceiling is set at P41 per kilogram for regular milled rice and P45 per kilo for well-milled rice.
The DoF has also proposed to temporarily reduce tariffs on rice imports to zero.
One of the toll operators’ top concerns is how to identify trucks carrying agricultural goods, Mr. Corpuz said, adding that the Class 3 category covers trucks carrying all types of goods.
“The other part of it is what kind of agricultural goods are going to be exempted. These are being reviewed by the toll operators and concessionaires,” he added.
Mr. Corpuz said there is no definite timetable for the toll road operators to review the proposal.
BusinessWorld solicited comment from toll road operators but they had not replied at the deadline.
In August, inflation rate accelerated to 5.3% from 4.7% in July mainly driven by rising pump prices and food costs.
Former Agriculture Undersecretary Fermin D. Adriano said the DoF’s plan to exempt trucks from the toll hike will help mitigate high food prices.
“I support DoF position…(which will keep logistics costs down). Ultimately consumers pay for those costs through high food prices,” Mr. Adriano said in a Viber message on Tuesday.
Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) said it supports the DoF plan.
“We have long proposed to have a green lane for vehicles exclusively carrying agriculture products to cut on logistics costs across commodities,” SINAG Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet said in a Viber message.
However, Mr. Cainglet said that the government should also go after smugglers and hoarders, who were blamed when the government sought to justify its price controls. — Ashley Erika O. Jose