TRB scored for not punishing toll firms over RFID glitches since 2017
MANILA, Philippines — The leadership of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) was scolded during a Senate hearing on Thursday for not imposing sanctions on toll operators over glitches in its cashless toll payment booths for the past three years.
During the hearing, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian asked TRB executive director Abraham Sales if he had ever penalized toll operators, particularly the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Corp., due to faulty radio-frequency identification (RFID) scanners.
Before this, Gatchalian shared clips taken as early as 2018, which showed that his driver had to go forward and backward multiple times for the scanner to read the vehicle’s RFID tag, a daily occurrence during his trips through NLEX.
“Mula 2017 hanggang ngayon, nagbigay na ba kayo ng multa o ng any punishment to the operators? Alam naman natin na itong 2017, hindi ho ito isolated case, regular case ho ito,” Gatchalian said.
(From 2017 up to now, have you ever imposed penalties or any punishment to toll operators? We know that the problem goes way back in 2017, this is not an isolated case, this is a regular case.)
In response to the senator’s query, Sales admitted: “’Yung pong multa, wala po.”
(For the penalties, none.)
Sales said the board is now studying if the recent concerns raised over NLEX’s RFID booths would warrant penalties under its contract.
“Hindi niyo po pinagmulta since 2017, hanggang ngayon puro pakiusap na lang na gagawin at gagawin, pero alam naman natin di nila ginagawa?” Gatchalian told Sales.
(You have not penalized the operators since 2017, until now you will just settle with them promising to do better when we know that they don’t.)
The TRB chief argued that toll operators were able to address problems due to old equipment as well as faulty RFID stickers.
But Gatchalian believes the duration of the problem involving the RFID booths should have triggered heavier penalties to toll administrators.
“Kung ganoon ho eh dapat mas mabigat yung inyong ginanwa dahil hindi naman ito bago at nakita niyo napaka-powerful ang charter niyo. Yung kontrata din very specific, meron kayong kapanagyarihan, bakit hindi niyo ho ginawa para matakot?” the senator asked.
(If that’s the case, heavier fines should be imposed because this is not new and your charter is very powerful. The contract is also very specific, you have authority over them. Why won’t penalize them so that they can shape up?)
In response, Sales said that the board is now looking into possible penalties for toll operators over RFID glitches following the recent concerns raised over the implementation of the cashless toll scheme.
But Gatchalian was piqued by this: “Eh ngayon lang ‘yun, eh ‘yung dati?”
(That’s for now, how about for the previous years?)
“Wala pong sanction po ‘yung mga nakaraan,” Sales admitted.
(There were no sanctions imposed before.)
“Kaya pinaglalaruann lang ang taong bayan.. Papasaok isang tenga (ng operators) lalabas sa kabila. Gano’n po nangyayari kaya umabot po tayo sa ganitong punto,” Gatchalian then said.
(The Filipino public is being played. Warnings will just go inside one ear and go through another. That’s what’s happening, that’s why we’re reaching this point.)
He added. “Meron kayong kapangyarihan, hindi niyo ginagamit. Naririnig niyo ho yung ‘regulatory capture,’ ‘captured’ na po ang TRB, pinagtatawanan lang tayo ng mga operator.”
(You have the power but you don’t use it. Ever heard of ‘regulatory capture?’ The TRB is being ‘captured.’ Operators are laughing at us.)
Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) President Rodrigo Franco, meanwhile, told the Senate committee that the management understands the plight of motorists and is looking to “technological innovation” in the collection of tolls.
MPTC manages NLEX, which connects Metro Manila to Central Luzon provinces, and other major turnpikes in South Luzon.
“We hear the complaints of the motorists…Because of these complaints, we look to technological innovation, particularly electronic toll collection to lessen the pay of toll payments. The RFID is an improvement that expressways operations introduced to streamline tolling,” Franco said.
“If implemented properly, RFID tolling is three times faster than cash payment,” he added.
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