Senate summons DOTr, TRB execs to RFID probe

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Senate summons DOTr, TRB execs to RFID probe
The Senate committee on public services, chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, will take up three resolutions all seeking to look into the implementation of the contactless transaction through the radio frequency identification system.
STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — Officials from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) are among those summoned to appear on Thursday at the Senate inquiry into the implementation of the cashless system on major tollways that resulted in gridlocks and left motorists stuck on the road for hours.

The Senate committee on public services, chaired by Sen. Grace Poe, will take up three resolutions all seeking to look into the implementation of the contactless transaction through the radio frequency identification (RFID) system.

The panel wants to be enlightened on how government regulators will fix the procedure at toll plazas to address congestion, according to Poe.

“First of all, we want the situation of (our) countrymen to improve where they aren’t inconvenienced and stressed in waiting in line for a long time. Secondly, we want to find out why the implementation (of the cashless system) became problematic,” she told radio station dzBB in Filipino yesterday.

“The intention of having a cashless system is good, but the DOTr must explain why there are problems,” she added, noting that the TRB seems to be sleeping on the job.

For the senator, the cashless system should also be seamless for all tollways so that motorists do not have to get separate RFID stickers for each.

The committee will also look into complaints that some RFID sensors are malfunctioning, she said.

Poe said the cashless system should offer motorists ease of travel along the expressways while keeping them away from the possibility of coronavirus transmission when using cash payment.

Without pre-empting the outcome of the hearing, the senator emphasized that government regulators were slow in acting on the expressway snarl despite the daily complaints of motorists.

Amid tensions on the mess caused by the RFID system on the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) expressed its support for local government units (LGUs) that imposed sanctions on the company due to heavy traffic.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said it was important for the parties to sit down and discuss solutions to address the problems caused by the RFID system implementation.

The city government of Valenzuela had earlier suspended NLEX Corp.’s business permit because of the heavy traffic caused by the implementation of the cashless toll payment through RFID starting last Dec. 1.

Several LGUs in the province of Bulacan that were also affected by the cashless toll payment were also mulling action, according to Año.

“For me, I’m supporting our local government units who have actions like that. There are solutions and they should sit down, talk and find a common solution instead of imposing what you want to do without thinking that it would affect our ordinary citizens,” Año said in an interview aired over radio station dzBB.

He added that he also understood how difficult it was for motorists to deal with the “sudden” imposition of cashless transactions, and noted that deadlines for the installation of RFID tags were also unreasonable.

“Not all of our citizens can beat that deadline… We have to understand that this cannot be done in a rushed manner,” the DILG chief said.

Lawmakers have been prodding the DOTr to move the Jan. 11 deadline for motorists to have RFID tags installed on their vehicles.

Año also expressed belief that these LGUs’ actions, including the sanctions they imposed on NLEX, would not drive away investors.

No guarantee

Meanwhile, Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian yesterday said a meeting between him and officials of NLEX Corp. regarding issues surrounding the RFID system does not guarantee that the firm’s business permit will be restored.

Speaking in a radio interview, Gatchalian said among the topics to be discussed during the meeting is the traffic buildup caused by the RFID system and the city government’s proposed solutions to help NLEX address the problem.

Last week, Gatchalian said the NLEX proposal, which was contained in a letter sent to him, needs further detailing and “except for the firm’s assurance of rebate, the rest seemed vague.”

“We will convene our team and digest the letter fully and probably engage NLEX in a meeting and find more details laid on the table,” he said in his post on Twitter.

The mayor also vowed that “no suspension lifting will take place until timetables are laid out, milestones in the timetable are completed and that we can measure these with accepted indexes.” – Neil Jayson Servallos, Romina Cabrera, Rey Galupo

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