RFID mess gets Senate attention, hearing set

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    EVEN as the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Corp. has announced it would reopen its cash lanes during the holidays to ease road congestion while it fixes its faulty Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, the Senate committee on public services will continue with its planned hearing into the mess caused by the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) cashless transaction program.

    Sen. Grace Poe, committee chairwoman, said the hearing will be in line with the three resolutions filed by Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Nancy Binay, and Imee Marcos who want the RFID issue resolved through corrections in existing legislation.

    In particular, senators are eyeing improvements in road traffic which have been a perennial problem in major thoroughfares in the country.

    “We would like to get to the bottom of this problem. Well, supposedly, the [RFID] readers they are using are defective. In the south [Luzon expressway] vehicles are also piling up but not as problematic as it is in the north,” Poe said.

    The Senate has invited Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to explain the RFID mess which was first ordered implemented in October but was later extended to December since toll concessionaires were apparently not yet prepared for the program.

    The NLEX Corp. on Saturday said it would reopen its cash lanes in anticipation of the holiday traffic rush in toll exits, especially those headed in the direction of the provinces.

    NLEX officials has been holding separate meetings with Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) general manager Jojo Garcia, Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan, and Liga ng mga Alkalde ng Pilipinas Bulacan chapter president and Guiguinto City Mayor Boy Cruz to discuss steps to improve traffic flow at toll plazas.

    “We will be opening cash lanes in all toll plazas during this transition towards 100 percent cashless transactions,” NLEX president and general manager J. Luigi Bautista has said in a statement.

    “For the smaller plazas, where there are limited lanes, we will have an exclusive RFID lane beside a combined cash/RFID lane. Sticker installation and reloading of RFIDs will also be relocated to other locations in order not to compete with the limited road space,” he added.

    He said NLEX will also implement a “barrier up” procedure in RFID lanes, meaning RFID subscribers no longer need to stop and go as they pass through, even as the scanners or readers operate and record toll transactions.

    Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian has suspended the business permit of NLEX, while forcing the tollway company to quickly address the issues.

    Interior Secretary Eduardo Año backed Gatchalian’s decision to suspend NLEX’s business permit, in directed contrast to the statement of presidential spokesman Harry Roque who said such actions could scare away investors.

    Año said local chief executives have the mandate, under the Local Government Code, to protect the interest and welfare of their constituents. – With Victor Reyes