THE chairman of the House committee on transportation said the massive gridlock along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) could have been prevented if only the Toll Regulatory Board (TRD) was doing its job.
“Ang sa akin po kung ginagawa po ng TRB ang trabaho nila, matagal na po itong inaksyuhan,” Samar Rep. Edgar Sarmiento said, referring to the technical problems encountered in the cashless transaction system using the radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.
TRB is an agency under the Department of Transportation (DOTr) that regulates all toll roads in the country. It also has the authority to enter into contracts on behalf of the government with entities for the construction, operation and maintenance of toll facilities.
Appearing at the weekly Ugnayan sa Batasan media forum, Sarmiento said his committee never failed to remind the TRB on the need to fix all issues related to RFID prior to full implementation of the cashless transaction system at expressways.
He said the TRB and DOTr should heed Speaker Lord Allan Velasco’s call to further extend the deadline for the full implementation of cashless toll operation to March 2021.
Velasco earlier said the extension will give motorists enough time to secure the RFID stickers considering the limited or restricted movement of the population due to COVID-19.
Sarmiento said that while going cashless is a step in the right direction, the TRB should have ensured first that the machines and other necessary equipment were working properly.
“The RFID reader equipment for NLEX (North Luzon Expressway) have yet to be upgraded. That information was relayed to us by no less than a representative of NLEX,” Sarmiento said. “Kaya sabi natin, hindi pa handa ang sistema, huwag na muna pilitin.”
He added that his committee also asked the DOTr for a timeline on the acceptable process of transition to going cashless on both NLEX and South Luzon Expressway. He has yet to receive a reply for this request.
Sarmiento said the TRB should also coordinate with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) regarding the fees they collect on the RFID stickers being distributed.
“Sa tatlong milyong vehicles lang po at P500 (each), that is already P1.5 billion floating money,” said Sarmiento. “Maliwanag po ang batas na sinasabi po na ang Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas po ang dapat may awtoridad dito. Maliwanag po ito sa Republic Act 11127—The National Payment Systems Act.”
Sarmiento earlier noted that Thailand and Indonesia took a year and a half on the average to be fully cashless.
“In comparison, it’s been barely five months from the issuance of the (DOTr’s) Department Order 2020-012 since the implementation of cashless payment,” Sarmiento pointed out.