Thursday, February 22, 2024

SMC boss seeks further extension of RFID installation deadline

Given the continued high volume of applications for RFID electronic toll collection stickers, San Miguel Corporation (SMC) president Ramon S. Ang is appealing to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to consider a further extension for motorists of its order to implement 100% cashless transactions at all expressways.

In a statement, Ang assured the government that all lanes at toll plazas of its expressways — Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Southern Luxon Expressway (SLEX) the Skyway System, NAIA Expressway, and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) — are ready and fully equipped for the shift to 100% electronic toll collection by December 1.

However, it’s the huge number of motorists that have still not secured their RFID stickers, that should be given due consideration, Ang said.

“I have been monitoring the situation. We only have a few days to go, and yet our sticker installation sites are still packing long lines, especially this last weekend before implementation on December 1. Given the surge in last-minute applications we’re seeing, we don’t think we will be able to serve everyone. A large number of motorists will not make it to the December 1 deadline,” Ang said.

Ang said that despite the company’s efforts to roll out additional measures to fast-track the installation of stickers — including opening 100 additional sticker installation sites and implementing 24 hours installation at major locations — the volume is just too much.

“My honest opinion is we will really need at least until February. And that is what we are asking government. To allow us to retain even just a few cash lanes until February,” Ang said.

“Majority of lanes at toll plazas can be ETC, because anyway, the tollway operators have complied and equipped all lanes for cashless transactions. We can then assign some lanes for continued stickering, and at least one lane for cash payments. This is in case traffic builds up due to long lines at stickering lanes. Some motorists can still opt to pay in cash, and just have their sticker installed on their next trip,” Ang added.

Ang said that government’s decision to extend the deadline — originallly set for November 2, to December 1— and its subsequent decision to not fully enforce penalties until after January 11, was “the right call.”

He, however, said that the increase in applications from non-regular users of expressways trying to beat the December deadline, is one of the main reasons lines remain long at sticker installation sites along with strict  distancing protocols.

“As the DOTr itself said, there really is no need to panic if you are a non-regular user of expressways. Even with the scheduled implementation on December 1, motorists with no stickers will not be apprehended. Also, stickering will continue at the toll plazas and installation sites. In fact, these will continue even after January,” Ang emphasized.

“But given that many motorists still want to get their stickers as soon as possible, I think we can still accommodate them. Because anyway, those who have secured their stickers earlier will already realize the benefits of government’s mandate, and that is convenience and added safety. For those that have not been able to get theirs, I think we won’t lose anything by providing them some consideration. We hope government will study this option carefully. At the end of the day, we will abide by what they say,” Ang said.


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