Toll holiday in Valenzuela tollgates stays – Gatchalian

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    THE toll holiday in the city of Valenzuela will be in effect until officials of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) have addressed the glitch in their radio-frequency identification (RFID) system that has caused horrendous traffic in the city for the past days, Mayor Rex Gatchalian said yesterday.

    Gatchalian late Monday afternoon ordered the suspension of the business permit of NLEX, effectively barring the firm from collecting fees in seven tollgates in the city – Karuhatan to Mindanao Avenue, Karuhatan to Harbor Link toll plaza, Karuhatan to MacArthur Highway sub-exit, Mindanao Avenue toll plaza, Paso de Blas north bound and south bound, and Lawang Bato toll booth.

    During the Laging Handa press briefing, Gatchalian said: “If you are suspended, the ball is in your court. If you want to lift the suspension, you have to fix what you have to fix.”

    “Ayusin nila iyan. Kung inayos nila bukas e di malift natin bukas, kung patatagalin nila tatagal rin ‘yung lifting (They should fix that. If they can fix it tomorrow, we’re going to lift it tomorrow. If they are going to prolong it, the lifting will also be prolonged),” added Gatchalian.

    Gatchalian said he has been telling NLEX to fix their defective RFID sensors for the past seven years already. He said the company’s inaction had led to the recent traffic congestion in the area when NLEX started to implement cashless transactions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The city executive justified his decision to suspend the business permit of NLEX to operate in the city by saying: “Remember, a business permits is a privilege, it’s not a right. Just like any other business, kapag may nilabag ka sa alituntinin ng batas, lokal man yan o national law, pwedeng ma-suspend ang conditional mo na business permit (Just like any other business, if you violate a law, local or national law, your conditional business permit can be suspended).”

    Gatchalian said the suspension only applies in tollgates located within the borders of Valenzuela City.

    “What I cover is their specific action here in Valenzuela which is their toll plaza. So they are not allowed to collect fees, their barrier is up, we are on a toll holiday in their tolls in Valenzuela City),” he said.

    NLEX Corp. said it will implement several measures to resolve its issue with the Valenzuela City government.

    “We are reviewing the situation and are doing everything necessary to address the issues,” said Luigi Bautista, NLEX Corp. president, adding the option includes amicable and cooperative initiatives between the tollway company and the city government.

    Bautista appealed to all NLEX motorists: “We are working to eliminate the inconvenience caused to our customers by the new compulsory tollway cashless transaction system using RFID that is required by the Department Order of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).”

    The tollway company acknowledges the mandated 100 percent cashless toll implementation has experienced birth pains that it said resulted to technical problems in some areas.

    “These glitches that are occurring at the toll booths are simply a result of some adjustments that should be expected because the RFID implementation took effect only eight days ago,” Bautista said.

    Even prior the implementation of 100 percent cashless transactions, NLEX has undergone consistent monitoring and upgrade to improve its RFID system. Advanced reading of RFID tags was implemented by relocating RFID sensors 10 meters from their original positions and adjusted the system software for faster transaction times.

    Since December 1, overall RFID transactions totaled 291,642 with 98 percent read rate.“While we encountered problems on reloading, these are part of the growing pains and are currently being handled to ensure a more efficient payment system,” NLEX said.

    Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian has filed a resolution seeking a Senate review of the RFID system, particularly an assessment of the minimum performance standards compliance of toll operators stipulated in their concession agreements as well as the powers and functions of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), the government agency that regulates all toll roads in the country.

    Gatchalian, in filing Senate Resolution No. 587 last Monday afternoon, said the conduct of an inquiry is in aid of legislation and in exercise of the Senate’s oversight functions.

    “There is a need to review the concession agreements of existing tollway operators to check if the operation of their toll collection system conforms to the minimum standard specifications for operations and maintenance under toll operations certificate or agreement,” he said.

    Gatchalian, vice chairman of the Senate economic affairs committee, said that a review of the existing oversight mechanisms set by Presidential Decree 1112, which created the TRB, is also in order.

    The TRB, by virtue of PD 1112, was created to grant authority to operate a toll facility and issue the necessary “Toll Operation Certificate” as well as the power to amend, modify or revoke the same whenever public interest so requires, Gatchalian said. – With Myla Iglesias and Raymond Africa