By: Miguel R. Camus
One of the country’s largest expressway operators wants to remove toll barriers in the next two to three years in a bid to go fully electronic.
The shift to what is known as open road tolling is part of a comprehensive plan submitted to the government by Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., which operates hundreds of kilometers of expressways, including the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway in Luzon.
Under the system, toll collections will be fully electronic and there will be no more physical payment booths. It is used in Singapore and parts of Europe and the United States.
NLEx Corp. president and general manager J. Luigi L. Bautista told reporters in a recent interview the company had submitted its proposal to the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Works and Highways last May 26.
“We are waiting for [government] to respond to our proposal,” Bautista said.
It will be implemented in multiple phases, with the main goal of going cashless.
According to Bautista, the first step is to move into a full RFID (radio-frequency identification) system in five to six months after approval. Within 12 months, the company wants to integrate payments with other operators such as San Miguel Corp. (SMC)
The plan will make toll road operations more efficient and travel more seamless. It will also cut physical contact that could worsen the spread of the new coronavirus disease, or COVID-19.
Metro Pacific Investments Corp. chair Manuel V. Pangilinan said they also wanted to make it easier for motorists to load their RFID cards “on the air.” There are ongoing talks with Smart Communications, which is part of PLDT, an affiliate of Metro Pacific.
SMC, a food, drinks and infrastructure conglomerate, earlier said its toll roads would go fully cashless and transition to RFID starting October this year.
SMC said the first phase of this project covered the elevated section of the Metro Manila Skyway, Naia Expressway and South Luzon Expressway.
The system will cover at-grade sections of the three tollways and include STAR Tollways in southern Luzon and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union in northern Luzon starting January 2021.
Metro Pacific Tollways also operates Cavite Expressway and is building the Cavite-Laguna Expressway, Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway and the proposed Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas Expressway.
Bautista said the shift to digital toll payments would move faster if the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board mandated the use of RFID for all motorists using the expressways. INQ