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Suspension of cashless toll payments proposed

THE Department of Transportation (DOTr) should not implement cashless toll payments until radio-frequency identification (RFID) of the two toll operators become interoperable, a House leader said on Wednesday.

“It puzzles me why the DOTr decided to implement a cashless toll collection scheme when Easytrip and Autosweep are not yet compatible with each other’s tollway system,” Valenzuela City Rep. Wes Gatchalian, chairman of the House committee on trade and industry, said.

“Since the government targets to have full interoperability by next year anyway, then we should also consider delaying the implementation of the cashless toll collection until next year,” Gatchalian added.

The lawmaker urged the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) to suspend the implementation of the cashless toll collection until both RFID systems are made compatible with each other.

“I understand that TRB Executive Director Abraham Sales has said there will no longer be extensions after December 1, but implementing the cashless payment scheme without interoperability will only create more problems for our motoring public,” the lawmaker said.

The DOTr originally ordered toll expressways to fully implement the contactless payment scheme by November 2 but complaints from motorists made the transport agency push the implementation to December 1.

“While we fully support the shift to cashless transaction to lessen physical contact to contain the spread of COVID-19, the move should have been carefully planned and coordinated by the two toll operators to ease the burden of consumers to apply for and load up two different RFID cards,” Gatchalian said.

He added that not only is it burdensome for motorists to get two different RFID tags, it is also confusing to have to identify between Autosweep and Easytrip, especially for those who rarely use the expressways.

Autosweep tags are issued by the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) for the Skyway, South Luzon expressway (SLEx), STAR Tollway, Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway (TPLEx), Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway (NAIAx), and the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway (MCX). Easytrip, meanwhile, is issued by the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC) to be used in the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), Cavite Expressway (CAVITEx), C5 Southlink, and Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX).

Adding to the hassle is the limited number of RFID installation sites, which Gatchalian said could have been increased and brought to far-flung areas.

“It’s not easy for those who live outside of Metro Manila and far from the expressways to have to drive to an installation booth and get an RFID. We have to consider safety precautions because of the coronavirus pandemic plus not everyone has the time to go to an installation site,” he said.

In January, Gatchalian filed House Bill (HB) No. 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.

The proposed legislation also mandates the DOTr, in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), to create a multi-protocol RFID tag for the National Electronic Toll Collection System.

The new RFID tag must be ready for integration with existing toll collection systems of all expressways and reloadable in all reloading stations.

Gatchalian’s bill also mandates that all toll facilities in the country must comply with requirements for toll interoperability within six months of the law’s enactment, otherwise a toll owner or operator who fails to comply with the deadline will be fined P5,000 for every day of non-compliance.