Right now, there is a lot of frustration among motorists regarding the order from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to phase out cash transactions at all major expressways starting December 1.
While the major toll concessionaires and RFID companies under San Miguel Corporation (SLEX, Skyway, STAR Tollway, TPLEX, NAIAX) and Metro Pacific (NLEX, SCTEX, CAVITEX, CALAX, C5-Link, Harbor Link) are exerting every effort to get as many RFID tags installed on our motor vehicles, there are just too many to cover in a short amount of time before the cash lanes are phased out. Even the online booking systems launched by both companies have been inundated with motorists attempting to set an appointment, only to be frustrated because the slots have been filled up... all the way to January 2021.
The DOTr has heard the outcry from the public, and they want to make this clear: there is no need to panic.
As we had reported before, motorists without the corresponding RFID tags on their vehicles could be apprehended for attempting to enter an expressway via an RFID lane. But the DOTr will not be implementing or asking the toll operators to mete out any penalties for a violation that will be effectively classified as disregarding traffic signs (DTS). This was made clear just today after we spoke to DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran.
What the DOTr and the tollway concessionaires will be implementing is a transition period -something akin to a grace period or (their words) honeymoon phase- from December 1, 2020, to January 11, 2021. In this transition period, the toll operators will not apprehend motorists for trying to enter the tollway without an RFID tag because they will install an RFID on your vehicle as you line up. And by that, the DOTr means all toll gates and all toll booths.
From December 1 to January 11, all the toll plazas and all the individual toll booths of all expressways will be converted to RFID installation lanes. If your vehicle doesn't have an RFID tag as you enter NLEX, EasyTrip's staff will install an RFID tag on your vehicle. The same applies to SMC with AutoSweep RFID.
We're not quite sure of the process for that yet, but we can hypothesize that this will be similar to the practice of ambulant toll collection; you know, the staff that stands outside the toll booth when there's a lot of traffic to collect tolls and give you ambulant toll tickets to move traffic along. This time, instead of collecting toll, they'll collect the minimum load prescribed, and stick an RFID tag on your vehicle. All you have to do is get their attention that you don't have RFID.
That means all lanes can and will be RFID stickering lanes, and the DOTr says they're urging both SMC and MPTC to deploy as many of their staff to do the RFID tagging on the first day (December 1) as they are anticipating a lot of motorists and a lot of confusion.
Asec. Libiran also clarified that this process will complement the RFID installation that both tollways and RFID operators are already running off-site or away from the toll booths or toll plazas. After January 11, they will start scaling back once they are satisfied with the penetration rate.
So if you don't have one or both RFID systems on your vehicle yet, don't panic. They will stick it on as you enter.