MANILA - Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Thursday said toll operators are expected to begin rolling out radio frequency identification (RFID) stickers that could be used on all tollways starting next month.
The Department of Transportation wants to start the first phase of the project in January and achieve a "complete cashless transaction" system by "mid-next year," Tugade said during a Senate hearing.
"'Yung mga bumibiyahe sa NLEX, puwede na sa sistema ng San Miguel," he said, referring to the North Luzon Expressway, which is under the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), and San Miguel Corp., which operates that South Luzon Expressway.
(Those who travel along NLEX can use it in San Miguel's system.)
The two tollway operators use different RFID stickers: Easytrip for MPTC tollways, including NLEX, SCTEX, Cavitex, Harbour Link and Cala Expressway, and Autosweep for SMC's SLEX, TPLEX, and STAR Tollway.
"Maa-achieve po 'yan by mid of next year ... Ewan ko po kung kakayanin namin, pero we will work hand in hand," he said.
(We can achieve it by mid of next year... I don't know if we can do it, but we will work hand in hand.)
Sen. Nancy Binay asked Tugade if the cash lanes in expressways would be scrapped by mid-2021, to which the Transportation chief clarified that cash-based transactions would still be honored for "emergencies."
"We will always allow the avenue of having a cash booth for emergency," Tugade said.
His announcement came days after senators and motorists slammed the agency's directive for toll operators to implement a full cashless transaction system this month to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Tugade earlier apologized for inconvenience brought about by the shift to cashless payments in toll plazas, admitting that the system has yet to be perfected.
He blamed the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), which he chairs, for its "failure" to implement some of his directives that would have supposedly shortened the processing time to install RFID stickers.
Some motorists spent long hours on the queue to have RFID stickers installed on their vehicles.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte called TRB officials "incompetent" for failing to test the cashless transaction scheme before mandating motorists to shift to the new mode of payment.