Think-tank Urges Tugade To Man Up Owning RFID Mess

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BAGUIO CITY (December 7, 2020) – Infrastructure-oriented think tank InfrawatchPH urged transportation chief Arthur Tugade to man up and accept responsibility for the escalating public fallout over its order mandating cashless transactions in toll roads.

This entire RFID mess has been due to the ‘ill-advised rush’ of DoTr to enact cashless transactions last August on the pretext of controlling Covid-19 infections, lawyer Terry Ridon, InfrawatchPH convenor said.

According to Ridon,  (Tugade’s) order has since been found “utterly unrealistic, given the several extensions being made for full implementation and the current concerns by local government and tollway operators.”  He urged Tugade “to step in and take leadership, instead of throwing toll operators under the bus.”

Ridon, who was a former House of Representative’s transportation committee member  said, “ DoTr’s knee-jerk rush to cashless transactions was not found in any previous strategic plan over the country’s tollways.”  He added that InfrawatchPH had reviewed all pronouncements by both Department of Transportation and the Toll Regulatory Board over the course of five years and found out that  “there is no single instance in which the matter of cashless tolling was considered: Not a single instance.”

The InfrawatchPH convenor blurted out, “And all of a sudden, the public has been forced to adjust to an untested, unvetted payment system across all our tollroads.  Ang bigat naman pong pagpapapogi nito, Sec Art. And at what cost? Nagkadarapa yung mga tao, sa gitna ng Covid para makakuha ng RFID.”

Ridon wanted to point out that DoTr’s apparent absence of foresight over the consequences of its impulsive order comes into sharp relief when compared to a similar cashless tolling program in New York.  “The transition to cashless tolling in New York’s highways was done over an almost three-year timeframe. It was announced January 2018, and fully implemented November 2020.”

While in the Philippines, the timeframe was a mere two-months from the August 2020 announcement to the original November 2020 implementation.

“So let us not now even wonder why there has been a mad scramble by the public to comply with the directive, full implementation keeps on getting deferred, and collateral regulatory matters keep arising from this program. Yung gulo, pinilit at malabong plano, nagsimula sa DoTr mismo,”  Atty. Ridon pointed out.

Ridon said the New York cashless tolling allows vehicles to pass through its tollroads even without RFID, while DoTr plans to penalize vehicles without RFID entering tollroads.

According to InfrawatchPH, the New York model simply captures license plates of those without RFIDs and mails the toll bills to the vehicles registered addresses.  “This is how true cashless tolling should work, instead of threatening the public with fines. Mahiya naman po sana tayo sa publiko. Hindi po namin kasalanan itong problemang ito. Kasalanan niyo po,” Ridon insisted.

Artemio A. Dumlao