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Suspension of cashless toll collection urged

A House leader on Saturday urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to suspend the implementation of the cashless toll collection system for motor vehicles until North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) officials are able to remedy the long lines and ensuing traffic it has been causing to Valenzuela City and its neighboring towns.

Valenzuela City Rep. Wes Gatchalian, chairman of the House committee on trade and industry, noted that the haphazard implementation of the cashless toll collection in NLEX caused “chaos in Valenzuela during the first day of the implementation” on December 1.

Gatchalian noted that several tollgates were unable to read the stickers that were installed.

He stressed that after several hearings, all Metro Manila Representatives are in consensus that the cashless toll scheme should be postponed until all issues have been ironed out.

Aside from RFID system malfunctions, the Valenzuela lawmaker said Easytrip’s penetration rate for RFID sticker installation was also abysmal.

“Of the over nine million total vehicle registered with the Land Transportation Office as of September 2020, Easytrip has a penetration rate of only 65% even with 105 installation sites, which is mind-boggling considering Autosweep has only 89 installation stations, yet its penetration rate is at 85%,” Gatchalian said.

As of December 1, Autosweep has registered 1.8 million RFID stickers installed while Easytrip has 1.6 million installations.

Gatchalian previously called on the DOTr to suspend the implementation of cashless toll payments until the RFID of the two toll operators become compatible with each other.

In January, Gatchalian filed House Bill (HB) 6119, which seeks to establish a National Electronic Toll Collection System and require all toll collection facilities operating in Philippines expressways to implement technologies and business practices that provide for the interoperability of electronic toll collection programs.

“Implementing the cashless payment scheme without interoperability will only create more problems for our motoring public,” he stressed.

He stressed that aside from interoperability issues, the DOTr should also consider health protocols currently in place because of the pandemic in deciding to defer the implementation of the cashless toll system.

“We are asking for a longer period for installation because we do not want the motoring public to go out all at the same time in a rush to have the RFID stickers installed. We want to minimize exposure of the public to the coronavirus and having them queueing for stickers simultaneously would defeat the purpose of the shift to cashless transaction, which is supposed to lessen physical contact to contain the spread of COVID-19,” he stressed.

The lawmaker reminded the DOTr that most motorists can only go out and queue for installation during weekdays after work hours, as they are either at the office or working home.

“Because they only have a short window of time to go out to queue on Mondays to Fridays, a buildup of vehicles inevitably happens causing traffic at tollbooths during the weekends. I am sure the long queues for stickering at tollbooths have not escaped the attention of our transport officials,” Gatchalian said.

“If this continues until the holiday season, then we should expect horrendous traffic every day until the holidays are over,” he added.

“I urge the DOTr to act swiftly in postponing the implementation of the RFID implementation, in behalf of our consumers, the motoring public, whose hardship in the long queue for the installation and now suffering in the horrendous traffic due to inoperable booths and unreadable stickers. Let us re-assess where the flaw and gridlock in the system lies, improve, and resume until the operations are ready and fully functional, with the number of RFID stickers installed to date, there are millions of pesos of fresh funds from the card load that can be used to upgrade the sensors and equipment in the toll booths,” He further appealed.