The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has warned that any delay in the implementation of contactless toll payment scheme would only make motorists and personnel manning the toll plazas vulnerable to the Covid-19.
In a statement, the DOTr stressed that the primary goal of the automated system is to protect the health and safety of public transport passengers and stakeholders.
“The primary purpose of Department Order No. 2020-012 requiring cashless or contactless transaction for all vehicles travelling on toll expressways is to prevent Covid-19 transmission, which is a matter of extreme importance,” the DOTr said.
The DOTr has earlier extended the deadline for the implementation of cashless toll collections on toll roads to December 1 from November 2 that will provide motorists using the expressways ample time to have their vehicles equipped with RFID stickers from the toll operators.
Motorists will only have to pay the load and RFID tags are free of charge. “Hence, there is no real or added financial burden for motorists who have existing tags, assuming that interoperability is later implemented. The loads of existing tags may be transferred to the new RFIDs or may be allowed to be used during interoperability until the loads are consumed,” DOTr said.
On the issue of limited RFID installation sites, the solution is not to defer the cashless program, but for toll operators to increase the number of installation booths and manpower along strategic places, DOTr added.
The shift to a cashless toll collection is part of the toll interoperability project which involved three phases – the implementation of contactless toll payment scheme, the use of two RFID wallets, and the use of one RFID sticker for all toll expressways.
The DOTr, through the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), said it continues to coordinate with private toll operators to thresh out issues, undertake the necessary operational measures and present solutions in order to achieve the interoperability project.
Meanwhile, Sen. Grace Poe has urged the DOTr to examine the entire process of the cashless payment system on toll roads to avoid any miscalculation that will shortchange motorists.
“Motorists should not be made to further suffer in their effort to comply with the government regulation to shift to a cashless toll system,” stressed Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services. “The government must assess the entire system and look at the payments or settlements end of the process.”
With toll operators already giving the RFID stickers for free, she said the DOTr now only needs to look into the required balance on the RFIDs and the possible charges on loading to ensure that citizens are not unduly burdened.
“Let us leave more money in their wallets by not asking for unnecessary deposits or a higher maintaining balance than they would use. People are burdened enough,” Poe said.
Motorists taking the Cavitex, for instance, are required to keep a minimum balance of P100 on their RFID accounts and the system does not allow debiting from the account even if the toll they need to pay is much less.
If a motorist enters Cavitex from Roxas Boulevard and takes the Zapote exit with a balance of P99, he or she would still need to load money in the account even if the toll costs only P25.
“Any additional, uncalled-for expense is no longer acceptable for our people. They have lost their jobs and earnings, with ballooning debts that they are struggling to pay,” Poe said. “At the very least, government must ensure that our motorists aren’t saddled with unnecessary amounts of maintaining balances.”