AUTO industry news site autoindustriya.com has come out with a post on that new Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) being pushed as an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system by San Miguel Corporation for its tollroads investment in the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and Skyway.
Two weeks ago, before the start of the Labor Day weekend I wrote of my experience with attempting – and failing – to get a new EPASS tag for the SLEX. The reason given was that “top management” had ordered the stop of the issuance of new tag subscriptions. I disagreed with this move, considering the economic benefits of the EPASS for motorists and the economy as a whole and challenged the government regulator, the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) and its executive director, former Marinduque congressman Edmundo Reyes Jr., to compel whoever is causing the inconvenience to thousands of pending and new applicants to do what’s right.
I must admit, the storm that surged the next week caught me by surprise. I was waiting in line at the bank when I got a text message that the blog had created such an impact. People had picked it up and even created the hashtag #bringbackEPASSnow and I was told it hit an all time high of number 3 in trending topics and stayed in the # 7 slot for a pretty long period.
On that same note I got quite a lot of supportive comments, but the most significant of which was from the influential Philstar business columnist Boo Chanco who said that the issuance of the EPASS tag was stopped because of the coming launch of the RFID stickers which is set to replace it.
I thought that it was cool that SMC was finally getting around to implementing the RFID electronic tollbooth tags. It’s been a year when I first wrote about it (link to last year) but it almost seemed nothing was happening in that front. I really like where Ramon S. Ang and his team are moving forward fast with SMC’s strategic investmets, especially with infrastructure. Hell, if they went for world domination I’d applaud them if they could do it fast and furious. Maybe we’d solve this problem we have with China even.
But what really bothered me were the events that followed the next few days, especially when it came to TRB’s Reyes. To this date he has not responded to my call for him, the regulator, to act on the issue. In fact, it has reached a point that somebody actually picked up on my blog and created a petition on Change.org for Reyes and TRB to act on the release of the new EPASS tags.
Some motorists who use the Skyway elevated tollroad system that spans the Makati to Alabang stretch are chafing over what looks like a shortage in supply of so-called E-Pass devices… San Miguel’s solution to the problem is a new Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) scheme which will be issued soon to replace the creaking E-Pass system…The system is already being pilot-tested and is set to be rolled out to the mass market next month.
And here’s the clincher: While the E-Pass cost the user P2,000 per device when it was introduced (before it was offered at a discount just before it was discontinued), the RFID sticker would be given to motorists for zero pesos, upon registration. That’s right, for free.–Daxim L. Lucas
The autoindustriya.com report also cites this PDI item.
Great news, I should say.
In the meantime, TRB’s Reyes still has not given an official statement of the EPASS impasse, what he has done about it (I had to dig it up myself) or even what the tollroad operator under SMC is planning with RFID, if he even knows about it.
What’s clear is Reyes and TRB has 15 days to respond to the Change.org petition since it is a letter directly addressed to him. I’m no lawyer, but according to my internet life lawyer friends he has 15 days to respond to it or be criminally liable. This according to Republic Act 6713, also known as The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials and Employees.
Specifically, in that law’s Implementing rules and regulations:
Rule VI Duties of Public Officials and Employees
Section 1. As a general rule, when a request or petition, whether written or verbal, can be disposed of promptly and expeditiously, the official or employee in charge to whom the same is presented shall do so immediately, without discrimination, and in no case beyond fifteen (15) days from receipt of the request or petition.
And as I recall, it was this same law that a little ol’ company named Amsterdam Holdings used to call the attention of former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Leandro Mendoza on some hankypanky with the bidding of the National Broadband Network project. This letter set off in motion a series of unfortunate events that eventually led to the ZTE-NBN scandal, destruction of some of the most illustrious names in society and politics and the downfall of a regime.
So it seems that we are in a state of flux, a holding pattern where we wait if RFID will finally come to pass and Reyes/ TRB actually grow a pair and answer the public petition.
That is, if Reyes actually knows more than I do and isn’t totally clueless as we make him out to be.