The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will not yet impose penalties for motorists who would fail to install radio frequency identification (RFID) stickers onto their vehicles by December 1.
During the Senate’s plenary debates on the DOTr’s proposed 2021 budget on Tuesday night, transport officials told senators that penalties will not be imposed in time for Christmas.
“According to them, they will not impose a penalty,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri quoted DOTr Assistant Secretary Giovanni Lopez and Asec. Steve Pastor as telling him during their session.
“Wait a minute, there’s a caveat: There will be penalty but they will not implement daw this Christmas time. Hindi daw mag-iimplement ngayong Pasko (They will not implement the penalty only this Christmas),” he continued.
Before this, Senator Nancy Binay was asking how much the fine will be for those that would be caught traversing expressways without RFID stickers.
“Kawawa naman talaga, parang hinoholdap mo pa ‘yong mga kababayan natin (It’s regretful, it’s like a holdup to our countrymen),” Senator Joel Villanueva, who was presiding the session, was then heard saying.
Binay noted that other countries still maintain a booth for cash transactions even with their implementation of the cashless payments.
“Kasi for example, turista ka, nagre-rent-a-car ka lang, paano magkakaroon ng RFID ‘yong mga rent-a-car, ‘di ba? So ‘yong concept ng cashless na totally cashless, I haven’t seen that in other countries. (Because for example, you are a tourist and you are just renting a car, how will the rent-a-car service have an RFID? So I haven’t seen in other countries that concept of totally implementing cashless payments),” she said.
Senator Grace Poe, who sponsors the DOTr budget, agreed with Binay and proposed that the agency be required to keep at least one toll both for cash payments.
“Kahit naman saan (Anywhere) there are unforseen circumstances…kailangan may (we still need the) cash booth. And I think, maybe we can put it also for their budget, they have to maintain at least a cash booth for all those toll booths. Kasi masyado naman tayong kumpinyasa sa sarili natin na kaya natin ‘yan na walang cash. (Because we are being to confident that we can implement the cashless),” she said.
Poe also noted that there are still interoperability issues in the department’s contactless transactions policy.
“We just got word from the Secretary [Arthur Tugade] that the interoperability is not going to be possible until June next year, the seamless interoperability. They’re just beginning talks with the two concessionaires,” she said.
Currently, motorists have to apply for separate RFIDs for the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). The NLEX is operated by the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation, along with the SCTEX, CAVITEX, C5 Link and CALAX; while the SLEX, NAIAX, Skyway, TPLEX, and STAR tollway are operated by the San Miguel Corporation.
Zubiri said the Philippines should take cue from Hong Kong, Japan and other countries that have single, reusable stored value cards that can be used to pay for various transport systems.
The DOTr in August issued Department Order No. 2020-012, which required cashless payments on expressways to prevent the COVID-19 transmission. Motorists were given until December 1 to install RFID stickers onto their vehicles, although authorities later clarified that the installation will still continue amid the implementation.
Last October, DOTr Asec. Goddes Hope Libiran said that motorists who would attempt to enter a toll road without an RFID might be given citation tickets for disregarding traffic signs and/or obstruction.
These correspond to a P1,000 fine, respectively.