Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian warned he will revoke the business permit of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Corporation should it charge motorists toll or lower its barriers while its business permit is suspended.
Gatchalian said the suspension of the toll operator’s business permit in Valenzuela City is only the “warning shot.”
“Dear NLEX Management… let me reiterate. If the city government finds out that you lower the barricades, or start charging toll again during the suspension period… let it be known that there is a far worst sanction than suspension,” he said in a Facebook post Monday night.
“It’s called revocation of business permit. Please do not tip the hand of the city government of Valenzuela,” he added.
He also slammed the toll operator anew for reportedly failing the riding public and its stakeholders.
“With all due respect, NLEX, don’t turn the table around on us. We reached this point because you did not protect the riding and driving public, your customers. You did not do your job, that’s why the local government unit stepped in to protect the riding public,” Gatchalian said in a series of tweets made on Tuesday.
“Don’t masquerade and pretend you are the white knight when you are not. We are not the aggressors here, it’s you,” he added.
The local chief executive has repeatedly called out NLEX Corporation for the worsening traffic situation in the city reportedly due to its defective radio-frequency identification (RFID) toll collection system.
The said system was fully implemented on December 1 to promote contactless and cashless transactions amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“With all due respect, the RFID system in your tolls [has] been there for years, in one form or another… You had years to fix it, but you did not. So by saying that Dec. 1 is the date of reckoning clearly is not factual,” Gatchalian said in a Facebook post over the weekend.
“Matagal na po yan RFID niyo na sira… Pero ngayon na mandatory na sa lahat gamitin, lumalabas ang mga problema, na matagal na dapat nasugpo kung binigyan niyo lang ng sapat na attention (Your RFID system has not been working properly for a long time. But now that it’s mandatory, we’re seeing the problems, which should have been already addressed if you only gave it attention),” he added.
Aside from unreadable RFID stickers, there are also reports of disappearing RFID loads.
Earlier, NLEX Corporation President J. Luigi Bautista said they are reviewing and addressing the “birth pains” brought by the RFID toll collection system and that they are pursuing a series of “amicable” consultations and dialogues with Gatchalian on the issue.
The Valenzuela mayor personally served the executive order suspending NLEX Corporation’s business permit to six toll plazas in the city at the close of office hours Monday (Dec. 7) after the reply of toll operator to the demands of the LGU “falls short of concrete action plans, solutions and fixes.”
The affected tollgates are in Mindanao Avenue going to Segment 9, Karuhatan going to Roxas Boulevard, Malinta Exit, Barangay Lawang Bato, and Barangay Maysan.
In a letter addressed to NLEX Corp. chief operating officer Raul Ignacio on December 3, Gatchalian gave NLEX 24 hours “to file with the city government your action plan to solve your RFID fiasco. Likewise, you have only 72 hours from the receipt of this letter to file your explanation why the city government should not suspend your business permit in view of your miserable failure to comply with your obligations in your business permit to the detriment of the general welfare of the public, including the residents of this city, as well as the chaos, which have caused atrocious traffic situation and disrupted peace and order of this city.”
Gatchalian said he is willing to lift the suspension on NLEX Corporation’s business permit when they have satisfactorily complied with the demands of the LGU.
He said the sensors and RFID stickers should have a readability rate of at least 95 percent to prevent a “cha-cha of cars” in the city’s tollways.
“The ball is in their court. Kung maayos nila bukas, ili-lift bukas. Ayusin lang nila ‘yung (If they are able to fix it tomorrow, then we will lift the suspension tomorrow. Just fix the) system, that’s all we ask for,” he said in a public briefing on Tuesday.