Senator Grace Poe on Friday welcomed the declaration of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to indefinitely suspend the full cashless transactions at the toll plazas during the hearing of the Senate public services committee on the radio frequency identification system.
“This is a welcome development but it’s not enough. We must see to it that this will boil down to the convenience and safety of our motorists who shell out their hard-earned money for such fees,” Poe said.
She said the officials responsible for the RFID mess were not yet off the hook.
“So what I did—open a window for the continued extension of the status quo… In effect, there is a mutual ‘pagpapalawig,’” Tugade told the senators
“I assure you, I listened and I learned, and I promise you, Madam Chair because I listened and I learned, I will act.”
In turn, Poe said, “That’s a good Christmas gift to our countrymen.”
The head of the Senate committee on public services cited the Toll Regulatory Board for the traffic problems emanating from the poor implementation of the cashless toll collection system.
“The Toll Regulatory Board, as the primary regulator of toll operators, cannot escape the blame. It seems to me that the TRB has been content to do two things and nothing else: raise toll rates and collect fees,” Poe said.
In 2019, only 25 to 30 percent of the vehicles that regularly pass through NLEX were RFID users. The implementing rules and regulations for cashless transactions in tollways were released by the TRB in October, yet the toll operators and motorists needed to comply with it just one month after.
“Some policies require urgent implementation especially during a pandemic. However, requiring a shift to 100-percent cashless toll collection system in a matter of three or four months is hasty and unrealistic,” Poe said.
Up to now, the TRB has no schedule of penalties for the poor performance of some toll operators and no sanctions have been imposed on NLEX Corp. amid the problems encountered at its toll plazas recently and other complaints that have been going on for years.
“The backlash in this implementation of the electronic toll collection system reminded those in public service about the importance of careful planning and thorough preparation. It also exposed the tendency of some government agencies to yield to what seems like ‘trial and error’ when it comes to implementing new policies,” Poe said.
She said the TRB not only failed its regulatory function but also failed in its job of collecting toll fees. According to the report of the Commission on Audit, the TRB failed to collect P44.24 million in toll fees in 2017 and P859.94 million in 2019.