Gatchalian seeks Senate review of TRB functions, concession agreements of tollway operators

Published December 8, 2020, 11:33 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian formally asked on Tuesday the Senate to review the minimum performance standards compliance of toll operators as 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.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In filing Monday afternoon Senate Resolution 587, Gatchalian said the conduct of an inquiry is in aid of legislation and in exercise of the Senate’s oversight functions.

In a related development, Gatchalian’s brother, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian suspended on Monday the business permit of North Luzon Expressway Corporation (NLEX) due to the unusually heavy traffic since NLEX implemented its ‘’abysmal state of cashless toll collection system on December 1.”

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

Gatchalian said the TRB should implement a toll holiday in the wake of an admission from NLEX (North Luzon Expressway) on the glitches in their system, including the malfunctioning of radio frequency identification device (RFID) sensors on vehicles.

NLEX Corporation Senior Vice President for Communications Junji Quimbo had earlier acknowledged the veracity of claims of motorists on the defective RFID sensors and vowed to remedy the situation and improve their operations in the coming days.

Gatchalian’s move stemmed from the numerous issues surrounding the full implementation since December 1 of the electronic toll collection (ETC) and the compulsory use of RFID to ensure 100 percent cashless or contactless transactions to lessen human contract and prevent infections from coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“These malfunctioning RFID sensors and installation of RFID stickers exacerbated the already dismal traffic situation in the tollways and nearby roads since the start of the shift to a purely cashless toll collection system,” Gatchalian said.

“Thousands of motorists have been suffering from the horrendous traffic that has been going on for a week now and which could have been prevented had they exercised prudence before setting a deadline on the implementation of the RFID system. What’s more glaring than the admission of the fact that the system is not equipped enough to carry out the cashless payment scheme? Does that not constitute gross negligence on the part of the toll operator?” he asked.