TRB ‘can’t escape blame’ in RFID mess — Poe
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Grace Poe on Thursday said the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) “cannot escape the blame” in the fiasco involving the implementation of the cashless payment scheme in tollways.
Poe, during a hearing of the Senate public services committee, criticized the TRB for seemingly focusing its attention on only two of its functions and “nothing else.”
“The Toll Regulatory Board, as the primary regulator of toll operators, cannot escape the blame. It seems to me that the TRB has been content to do two things and nothing else: raise toll rates and collect fees,” said Poe, who is leading the hearing as chair of the committee.
“Truth be told, TRB can’t even do its job of collecting toll fees that well,” she added.
She cited audit reports from the Commission on Audit, which the senator said showed that the TRB’s failure to collect “toll fees” worth nearly a total of P1 billion in two years: P44.24 million in 2017 and P859.94 million in 2019.
Further, Poe said that the TRB also “suffers” from having a governing board that is “dominated” by ex-officio Cabinet secretaries “who have more important things to do.”
“The future of the TRB is another issue which must be resolved during this hearing,” the senator said.
“The backlash in this implementation of the electronic toll collection system reminded those in public service about the importance of careful planning and thorough preparation. It also exposed the tendency of some government agencies to yield to what seems like ‘trial and error’ when it comes to implementing new policies,” she added.
The regulatory board recently earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte who warned its officials that they would be removed in the event of “another fiasco.”
The TRB had previously said that the board was dealing with the problems caused by the shift to cashless toll collection.
The board added that it had ordered the tollway operators to replace worn-out and defective sensors, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and equipment, and relocate RFID installation and reloading lanes to prevent congestion on the turnpikes.
Last Dec. 7, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian ordered the suspension of the business permit of North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) Corp. following traffic congestion in the city allegedly triggered by the faulty implementation of the toll regulator’s RFID payment system. Gatchalian’s order prevented NLEX from collecting toll from motorists.
Following a meeting between Gatchalian and NLEx Corp., the mayor ordered the “conditional lifting” of the suspension order of the firm’s business permit, which ended the “toll holiday” along NLEx tolls within the city.
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