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Senators want RFID system suspended
Senate President Vicente Sotto said they approved the resolution amid complaints about faulty RFID stickers, traffic gridlocks caused by the implementation of the DOTr order on cashless toll transactions and other glitches that prohibit motorists quick access on expressways.
Michael Varcas, file

Senators want RFID system suspended

Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - December 15, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senators adopted yesterday a resolution urging the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to suspend the implementation of the radio frequency identification (RFID) cashless payment scheme on expressways.

Sen. Grace Poe, principal author of Senate resolution 596, said of the 12 million registered vehicles in the country, three million do not have RFID stickers.

Of the figure, Poe said 6.1 million registered vehicles are in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon.

Senate President Vicente Sotto said they approved the resolution amid complaints about faulty RFID stickers, traffic gridlocks caused by the implementation of the DOTr order on cashless toll transactions and other glitches that prohibit motorists quick access on expressways.

Other senators who backed the suspension of the RFID scheme are Sherwin Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, Manny Pacquiao, Imee Marcos, Ramon Revilla Jr., Francis Pangilinan, Panfilo Lacson, Leila de Lima, Ronald dela Rosa, Joel Villanueva, Risa Hontiveros, Richard Gordon, Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto and Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.

“The DOTr should not implement the RFID system 100 percent until we are sure that it will not inconvenience the public,” Poe said.

Suspension order stays

Motorists can still pass through the tollways in Valenzuela City without paying fees as the business permit of NLEX remains suspended.

During a meeting yesterday, NLEX representatives and Mayor Rex Gatchalian agreed to keep the suspension order until the toll firm completes the RFID system upgrade by Jan. 30 next year.

Gatchalian said the company’s business permit would only be reinstated once the RFID glitches have been fixed.

Barrier-free tollways

The Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), operator of NLEX, vowed to build the infrastructure for a barrier-free tollway system in the next three years, pitching this long-term solution to the traffic gridlocks caused by faulty RFID sensors.

Gatchalian clashed with the MPTC officials over their position to keep the toll barriers supposedly to prevent motorists from getting away with toll fees.

The barriers were put in place to help authorities implement transportation regulations such as the seatbelt and anti-overloading laws, according to the MPTC and NLEX officials.

Removing the barriers would give an opportunity for motorists to go through the toll plaza without paying by simply covering the RFID stickers, NLEX Corp. president and general manager J. Luigi Bautista said.

Gatchalian maintained that removing the toll barriers outside rush hour would improve the flow of traffic.

Operations at the NLEX are being improved to provide convenience to motorists during the holiday season amid the transition to cashless toll transactions, according to the MPTC.

The company is working closely with its national and local government partners to resolve technical glitches and traffic congestion at toll plazas, Bautista said.

“We are committed to continuously look for ways to improve our service to the public – providing reliable, safe and convenient expressway travel experience to motorists, host communities and other stakeholders,” he said.

Among the measures being implemented are the reopening of cash lanes, transfer of RFID installation and reloading transactions away from the toll plazas and enhancement of traffic management and customer assistance.

The NLEX also committed to intensify its RFID sticker replacement program as well as accelerate the customer communication campaign on reloading the RFID accounts to prevent delays at toll plazas.

The company said toll lanes marked “emergency” are accepting cash payments to cater to infrequent expressway users.

For smaller toll plazas where toll lanes are limited, an exclusive RFID lane beside a combined cash/RFID lane has been put up.

“As an interim measure during this transition to 100 percent RFID, we will allow cash payments at all toll plazas. About 15 to 20 percent of our lanes will accept cash payments. For instance, in Balintawak, we will assign around three or four lanes for cash users,” Bautista said.

The NLEX said motorists’ requests for reloading would no longer be entertained at toll gates, except at major toll plazas in Balintawak and Bocaue.

The company said motorists would be directed by RFID lane assistants to other areas where the reloading transaction can be done without blocking other motorists.

The company will also conduct a timed “barrier up” operation at RFID lanes in anticipation of traffic buildup so that RFID customers need not stop even as the sensor and scanners continue to record the toll transactions.

Bautista said the company is discussing with the National Telecommunications Commission its plan to increase the RFID sensors’ wattage at toll lanes.

The tollway firm is also facilitating hardware and software updates as part of the system audit to ensure the quality of RFID stickers.

To guide motorists, around 270 assistants trained to handle RFID sticker scanning issues are deployed at toll lanes with handheld RFID devices.

To date, the toll operator said the average daily RFID usage at NLEX-SCTEX stands at 86 percent.

The Toll Regulatory Board said more than 90 percent of transactions on expressways are now cashless. – Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Richmond Mercurio, Ramon Efren Lazaro

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