The League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) Bulacan chapter may impose a toll holiday, too, as it threatened the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) management that it will follow the move of Valenzuela City if services will not improve.
In a radio interview on Saturday, LMP-Bulacan president and Guiguinto Mayor Ambrosio Cruz said his fellow mayors are giving NLEX a chance before deciding if it will suspend the permit to operate.
“If their services will not improve, I told them, the mayors of Bulacan will implement what (Valenzuela City) Mayor Rex (Gatchalian) did. I told them not to force us, if they will not act,” he said.
The mayors of Bulacan met with the officials of NLEX and raised the problems experienced by motorists following the implementation of the radio-frequency identification (RFID) system in Bocaue, Marilao and Meycauayan.
“We are experiencing four to five kilometers of traffic because first, there are not enough personnel. Second, the scanners are not working. It really caused chaos, that’s why we sympathize with Mayor Rex as he had enough of it,” he added.
The full implementation of the RFID system, part of efforts to manage and contain the spread of COVID-19, was supposed to begin on 2 November but was rescheduled one month later.
NLEX officials agreed to provide two cash lanes, increase personnel manning the toll gates and review the performance of the service provider.
“They will increase the personnel who are armed with scanners to ensure the smooth flow of traffic for those entering and going out of NLEX and vowed to review the service provider. Apparently, it is not as effective compared to the service provider of SLEX (South Luzon Expressway),” he noted.
Amid a rift with the local government of Valenzuela, NLEX terminated its previous plan to seek court intervention.
It will also reopen cash lanes beginning Monday to “hopefully address customer concerns during the transition to the RFID contactless system.”
“We will be opening cash lanes in all toll plazas during this transition towards 100 percent cashless transactions. For the smaller plazas, where there are limited lanes, we will have an exclusive RFID lane beside a combined cash/RFID lane,” NLEX Corporation president and general manager J. Luigi Bautista said.
The company under the Manny Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation committed to relocate existing RFID sticker installation and account reloading in the Karuhatan and Mindanao toll plazas “effective immediately” to ease gridlock. It also vowed to help solve Metro Manila gridlock, especially during the holidays.
Following a dialogue with the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), NLEX agreed to implement a “barrier up” procedure in the RFID lanes. Meaning, in lanes where the barriers are raised, subscribers need not stop but scanners and readers will continue to operate and record transactions.
“There are approximately 200,000 motorists using NLEX everyday so it’s difficult to abruptly close it. The McArthur Highway cannot handle it,” Cruz said.
He also proposed a discount for the minimum required amount of RFID load to entice motorist to register.
“If we estimate how much is being deposited in the RFID, if there are at least 400,000 motorists and you are requiring an average of P500 load, you are talking of about P500 million. NLEX said it will look into a possible discount to encourage motorists to buy RFID,” he said.
Senator Go warns TRB
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go likewise urged concerned agencies, particularly the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and the TRB, to immediately address the problems.
The DoTr, as the TRB’s mother agency, must resolve the inconvenience caused by the RFID implementation, Go said.
“To the DoTr and TRB, please solve the issues right away,” he said in an interview after attending the launch of the Malasakit Center at Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Marikina City on Friday. “It is your duty to make sure these problems are resolved.”
He asked DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade to hold accountable those who were responsible or negligent in addressing the RFID issues.
Samar Representative Edgar Sarmiento, chair of the Committee on Transportation, even warned the TRB that he would ask President Rodrigo Duterte to veto its 2021 budget if it cannot fix the NLEX mess.
TRB executive director Abraham Sales said traffic congestion in toll plazas and occasional glitches in the systems are part of “birth pains” of the cashless collection policy.
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