THE chairman of the House committee on trade and industry has called for the passage of a proposed law that would pave the way for expressways to transition to a unified cashless collection system in a bid to minimize physical contact as the country transitions to the new normal.
"With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, however, going cashless on toll collections has taken a public health significance. Our expressways serve as gateways to different parts of the country," Valenzuela City Rep. Wes Gatchalian, the panel chairman, stressed.
Gatchalian said the passage of House Bill (HB) No. 6619 would allow expressways to transition into a cash-less collection system, which will eliminate direct contact between travellers and toll collectors and aid in the prevention of cross-border transmission of the coronavirus.
"In the absence of a cure or vaccine for COVID-19, and with the still increasing number of confirmed infections in the country, we must continue finding ways to help contain the spread of the virus and save more lives,” said Gatchalian.
Under Gatchalian’s proposed law, all toll collection facilities operating in Philippine expressways will be required to implement technologies and business practices that provide for the interoperability of electronic toll collection (ETC) programs in their respective expressways.
HB No. 6619 mandates the Department of Transportation (DOTR), in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), to create a multi-protocol radio frequency identification (RFID) tag. The proposed legislation also mandates the creation of the National Electronic Toll Collection System (NETCS).
Gatchalian said the RFID tag should be readily integrated with existing toll collection systems on all expressways. The RFID account for the NETCS must also be reloadable in reloading stations of existing ETCs.
Toll collection booths shall also issue or display timely statements of toll transactions upon use of the RFID tags to provide transparency to consumers and protect them from hidden charges.
Gatchalian noted that a toll interoperability memorandum agreement signed by the toll road companies operating 13 expressways in Luzon has already been in existence for years, although it has been largely ineffective in enforcing toll interoperability.
The Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) also recently directed all toll operators to give free installation of RFID for vehicles using expressways, as a means to limit direct hand contact for toll payments and ensure social distancing measures.
However, Gatchalian said these RFID tags should also be interoperable for practicality, convenience, and public health safety.
“These different expressways were built, maintained and currently operated by different companies under the build–operate–transfer (BOT) scheme. Each toll road operator in the country utilizes different ETC systems which are not interoperable with one another. As a result, motorists that travel between these different expressways are required to maintain multiple ETC accounts in order to utilize the ETC toll booths in all the expressways or else forced to wait in long traffic lines to pay using cash,” he said.