San Miguel Corp. (SMC) President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon Ang on Sunday urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to consider an extension on the implementation of fully cashless expressways.
In a statement on Sunday, Ang said a "huge number" of motorists had still not secured their radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and this should be given consideration given the full cashless implementation on Tuesday, December 1.
"I have been monitoring the situation. We only have a few days to go, and yet our sticker installation sites are still packing long lines, especially this last weekend before implementation on December 1. Given the surge in last-minute applications we’re seeing, we don’t think we will be able to serve everyone. A large number of motorists will not make it to the December 1 deadline," said Ang.
"My honest opinion is we will really need at least until February. And that is what we are asking government. To allow us to retain even just a few cash lanes until February."
He added that, despite the company's efforts to roll out additional measures to expedite the installation of RFID tags, including the opening of 100 additional sticker installation sites and implementing 24 hours installation at major locations, the volume was just too much.
Both the Autosweep and the Easytrip systems -- which cater to the expressways connected to Metro Manila -- are set to go fully contactless by December.
The Autosweep tags are issued by the San Miguel Group for the Skyway, the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), the STAR Tollway, the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), the NAIA Expressway (NAIAx), and the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway (MCX).
The Easytrip System covers the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), the Manila-Cavite Expressway (CAVITEx), the C5 Southlink, and the Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX).
Under the first phase of the government's Toll Collection Interoperability Project, Autosweep tags will be readable by the Easytrip System, while the second phase will allow Easytrip RFID tags to be readable by the Autosweep System.
For its part, the DOTr said there would be no apprehensions for vehicles without RFID tags until January 11.
"As the DOTr itself said, there really is no need to panic if you are a non-regular user of expressways. Even with the scheduled implementation on December 1, motorists with no stickers will not be apprehended. Also, stickering will continue at the toll plazas and installation sites. In fact, these will continue even after January," said Ang.
"But given that many motorists still want to get their stickers as soon as possible, I think we can still accommodate them. Because anyway, those who have secured their stickers earlier will already realize the benefits of government’s mandate, and that is convenience and added safety."
As for those that have not been able to secure their RFID, And said that nothing would be lost by providing them some consideration.
He thus hoped the government would study a possible extension carefully, though at the end of the day, "we will abide by what they say." — DVM, GMA News