The Senate adopted on Monday, Dec. 14, Senate Resolution 596 asking the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to immediately suspend the implementation of cashless transactions on tollways.
“While it is recognized that the implementation of the cashless transaction system on toll expressways is a step toward a more convenient commuting or travel experience for all and will also reduce contact and minimize the spread of Covid-19, it is not appropriate and is unfair to the public to implement a system wherein the implementers themselves are not ready and equipped to make the transaction seamless,” said Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services and sponsor of the resolution.
According to the resolution, the DOTr on Aug. 13 issued Department Order (DO) 2020-12, requiring cashless or contactless transaction for all vehicles traveling on toll expressways starting Nov. 4. This deadline was later moved to Dec. 1.
The Land Transportation Office (LTO), meanwhile, issued Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 2020-2224 on Oct. 29, which provided uniform rules and regulations for the enforcement of DO 2020-012.
The Toll Regulatory Board, an attached agency of the DOTr, released the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of DO 2020-012 which outlined the responsibilities of toll operators and/or concessionaires, enumerated the guidelines in the operation and maintenance of the electric toll collection (ETC) system in toll expressways and provided for the imposition of penalties to erring motorists and toll operators and/or concessionaires.
“The implementation of the cashless transaction system on toll expressways caused massive traffic jams affecting thousands of stranded motorists due to various complaints like failure of scanners to read RFID stickers; delays in the reloading system of Easytrip accounts, unauthorized transactions, and other glitches that prohibit quick access,” the resolution stated.
This malfunctioning of the ETC system, particularly in the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), resulted in traffic congestion in nearby cities and municipalities affecting not just the livelihood and day-to-day activities of people but also the economy of some cities and municipalities.
The resolution further said that the reply and actions of NLEX on the complaints raised were found lacking and therefore resulted in the suspension of its business permit in Valenzuela.
“Taking into consideration the mounting complaints from motorists and LGUs alike, and the unsatisfactory response of toll corporations and regulatory agencies on the issue, it is recommended that the implementation of DOTr DO 2020-12 and its IRR, and LTO’s MC 2020-2224 be suspended immediately until the issues in its implementation are resolved,” Poe said.
“The riding public and road users must also be given ample time to comply with the new requirements, through more accessible installation and reloading stations, transparency in fees and charges and their possible options, integrated ID for different toll highways, and enhanced awareness on the use of RFID technology,” the senator added.