A HOUSE leader on Thursday strongly backed the call of Speaker Lord Allan Velasco for the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to postpone the implementation of the cashless, contactless fee collection system in Luzon’s toll roads.
The Speaker has proposed that the system’s implementation be deferred to March.
“During the three-month period of postponement, the government should allow the two big multibillion-peso companies running our expressways to import COVID-19 vaccines for their toll collectors and other frontline personnel,” said Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accounts.
Defensor said the DOTr pushed for the early rollout of the radio frequency identification (RFID) access and toll payment scheme after scores of toll collectors and other personnel in north and south Luzon got infected with new coronavirus.
He lauded the DOTr for wanting to shield these personnel, along with those in the mass rail facilities in Metro Manila, from possible infection.
The lawmaker noted that the contactless, cashless payment system also aims to prevent infected workers from spreading the virus to motorists and motor vehicle owners.
“Unfortunately for millions of motorists, implementation went awry, causing vehicular congestion even in marked RFID lanes in expressway toll plazas, where entry and exit for vehicles with RFID tags are supposed to be seamless,” he said.
He said the resulting traffic chaos has not only brought suffering to the motoring public but has caused friction between one tollway operator and local government units traversed by its expressway.
Defensor pointed out that if tollway operators are allowed to import vaccine for their frontline personnel and they could bring it in as soon as possible, there would be no need to rush the implementation of the RFID system.
The veteran legislator said these companies could be allowed to buy the vaccine already found effective, given accreditation and authorized to be used by regulators abroad.
“I am sure these big businesses have foreign connections that they can use to access these vaccines,” he said.
He stressed that if they are given more time, tollroad operators could not only protect their personnel from COVID-19 by procuring vaccines but could fix their RFID deficiencies and inefficiencies as well.