Blaming both the Toll Regulatory Board and the Department of Transportation for the traffic mess and confusion created by the implementation of the Radio Frequency Identification toll collection system in expressways in Luzon, the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation disclosed moves in the House of Representatives to penalize the two agencies with budgetary cuts.
Northern Samar Rep. Edgar Marie Sarmiento also aired the possibility of a government takeover of expressways operated by various private concessionaires if they will continue to ignore the plea of the public to extend the RFID stickering operations to allow more vehicle owners to register into the RFID system.
In a news forum Wednesday, Sarmiento stressed that the House transportation panel had already done its part in reminding both the DOTr and the TRB, together with the private concessionaires, of the lack of preparations for the full implementation of the cashless system of using tollways.
Sarmiento supported Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian’s decision to stop the toll operations of the Northern Luzon Expressway covered by the city’s jurisdiction. He said Gatchalian’s decision, which will be followed by other localities, is understandable since the traffic mess created by the RFID system has become unbearable.
Sarmiento has called for the suspension of the RFID system until January while Speaker Lord Allan Velasco batted for an extension of RFID stickering until the end of the first quarter of 2021.
“We already told them that their system is problematic. They have to push back the operations to January but they ignored our appeal,” lamented Sarmiento.
The administration solon warned that unless DOTr acts decisively to address the issues raised against the RFID system, the House will be forced to give its comeuppance by slashing a portion from its 2021 proposed budget.
According to him, they will pursue the budget cuts as soon as the bicameral committee report on the 2021 General Appropriations Act is presented for ratification before the House.
A takeover of expressways may also be resorted to if tollways implementing RFID continue to trigger monstrous traffic jams and remain inefficient in their operations, Sarmiento also warned.
Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who was also among the panelists in the forum, said Sarmiento’s views on the issue are correct.
Rodriguez supported the move to slash 2021 budgetary allocations for both the DOTr and the TRB if they will continue to ignore appeals from both the public and other officials of government to act swiftly on the complaints.
In the forum, Sarmiento presented a letter dated Sept. 10, 2020 which he addressed to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and TRB Executive Director Abraham Sales.
In the letter, Sarmiento suggested that RFID tag installation and reloading should be “made available at more locations, especially areas which are more frequented by people such as convenience stores and malls.”