A year into COVID-19: SMC waives close to P200M in toll fees for medical front liners

A year into COVID-19: SMC waives close to P200M in toll fees for medical front liners

MANILA — One year since the COVID-19 global pandemic hit the country, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) has waived a total of P190.7 million worth of toll fees for medical front liners passing through expressways it operates.

SMC, which operates the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR), South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), the Skyway system, including the newly-opened Skyway Stage 3; NAIA Expressway, and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway is the only toll operator in the country that continues to implement a “no toll fees” policy in support of COVID-19 medical front liners.

A total of 10,402 COVID-19 medical front liners—including doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other medical workers—currently benefit from the program, first announced by SMC at the start of the lockdown last year. Signups for the program continued for six months and were closed in September last year.

“One year on and the fight against COVID-19 continues. In fact, with this recent surge in cases, our medical front liners are again facing a difficult challenge, and their lives are again at higher risk,” said SMC president Ramon S. Ang.

“We are so grateful to them and proud that we have continued to help them and provided them this privilege of free toll fees for one whole year now. We hope that at least, it has lightened their burden and that every day they go to work, they are reminded of how San Miguel and the whole country are grateful for their sacrifices,” he added.

The free toll privilege was among numerous efforts by SMC to help the medical sector last year. These included donations of PCR testing machines and testing kits, fully-automated RNA extraction machines, high-flow cannula respiratory machines, temporary quarantine facilities, life insurance for front liners, personal protective equipment, disinfecting alcohol, and free fuel for shuttle services.

“Even while our medical front liners have already started receiving the vaccines, the threat of COVID-19 persists. It really falls on our collective shoulders to reduce the strain on our medical front liners and workers. We can all do our part and contribute. For us, it is through this program, and through our other initiatives that aim to keep our employees safe. Each of us can help out, just by following health protocols,” Ang said.

Since the pandemic, SMC has put in place many measures to take care of its own employees to help unburden the medical system. These include the strict implementation of health protocols and limited workplace hours, regular testing of employees through its own RT-PCR laboratory, and recently, it’s setting aside P1 billion to purchase vaccines for its 70,000-strong workforce.

“While we wait for the life-saving vaccines to arrive for the rest of the population in the coming months, we need to be very vigilant in protecting ourselves and preventing an even bigger surge in cases,” Ang appealed to the public.

“These safety measures which we all know by now—wearing of masks, face shields, washing of hands, keeping the social distance—are key to limiting the spread of the disease and keeping all of us healthy and safe,” he added. (AI/MTVN)

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