By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Benguet vegetable truckers backed claims of Congressman Ronald Cosalan that rerouting the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) would not benefit them.
Benguet Vegetable Truck Drivers Association President Gil Ganados said they support Cosalan’s bid against the proposed rerouting of former Pangasinan Congressman Mark Cojuangco to transfer the exit point of TPLEX some seven to ten kilometers away from the present Saitan junction. He said it would be an easier access to them if the exit point is right at the mouth of Kennon Road and Marcos Highway.
He said the additional distance, estimated to be seven to ten kilometers would translate to an additional 15 minute drive for them. “You might say 15 minutes is negligible but if you are ferrying vegetables every minute counts,” he said.
He said aside from the damage that longer travel could cause the vegetables, they also have to reach the market on time for the buyers.
Ganados said that should the TPLEX original plan be altered they would use the same route that they are using now. “Of course we will use the shorter route,” he said.
He said, “at the minimum some 100 vehicles, mostly ten wheeler trucks ferry vegetables, carrying an average of 1.2M to 1.4M tons of assorted temperate vegetables down to Metro Manila on a daily basis.
Andres Waylan, spokesperson of the Alyansa Dagiti Pesante iti Taeng Cordillera (Apit Tako), said the TPLEX was not really constructed for farmers nor was it primarily constructed for the ferrying of vegetables or other farm produce from the north to Metro Manila. He said TPLEX is actually for tourism purposes. Apit Tako is the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chapter in the Cordillera.
“The TPLEX was actually meant to shorten the travel time for tourists coming to the Cordillera,” he said.
He reiterated that what farmers need are roads that would connect their farms to the main highways.
Waylan said TPLEX, wherever it passes would be an additional expense for vegetable traders that would be passed on to consumers. “TPLEX would be privately managed just like the NLEX, this means additional toll fees for truckers. It would be good if vegetable truckers and dealers would be exempt from paying the toll fee, but I doubt it,” he added.
Agot Balanoy of the Benguet Farmers Marketing Cooperative (BFMC) said truckers and traders are assured of their profit whichever the road be. “Whether the travel time is cut short or not, whether the road is longer or shorter, with or without traffic jams, whatever additional cost the trucker or trader incurs in ferrying vegetables their profit is assured because they will either just buy from the farmers at a lower price or jack up the selling price to the buyers,” she said.
Balanoy reiterated that in the end, any additional cost in ferrying vegetables to the market be it because of a longer route, oil price hike or whatever reason, the farmers and end consumers will be the ones to pay for it.
Ganados confirmed that any additional expense they incur they pass it on to the buyers. # nordis.net