“This is it, ladies and gents. As of today, December 1, toll operators have officially gone cashless. The northern and southern expressways now accept RFID-only payment transactions at the toll plazas.
“There still won’t be apprehensions until January 11, 2021 as promised by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), and certain lanes at toll booths have been converted to RFID-installation lanes for the benefit of those who have yet to get RFID stickerss for their vehicles. Unfortunately, it appears hundreds of motorists are now having their Easytrip and Autosweep tags installed at the toll plazas, leading to absolute chaos on the morning of December 1.
“The situation along North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) was abysmal, and the live updates from that day—not to mention the reactions of netizens on social media—say it all. There’s been heavy traffic at the Balintawak, Mindanao, Karuhatan, Bocaue, and Balagtas toll plazas for hours now already, and it doesn’t look like the situation will be improving anytime soon. The same can be said about the Manila-Cavite Expressway (Cavitex).
“You may recall that in a recent statement, San Miguel Corporation president Ramon S. Ang said that he believes another extension is needed for a smooth transition to this cashless payment system. Judging by what we saw the past week, it looks like the man might be right.”
“It looks like not all expressways were overwhelmed by the number of motorists looking to have RFID stickers installed the morning of December 1.
“In a statement, SMC said that expressways and toll plazas under its management—South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), NAIA Expressway (NAIAX), Skyway, Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway (TPLEX), and Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR)—reported smooth traffic during day one of the shift to 100% cashless tollways.”
“‘There was a momentary buildup near Santo Tomas, Batangas, lasting only about an hour. We also had the usual lines at RFID installation lanes, but these were within normal levels and did not cause major traffic for other motorists at the carriageways and the toll plazas,’ said SMC president Ramon S. Ang.
“He attributed the efficient day one to motorists down south, saying many of them already had Autosweep RFID stickers. SMC also added that its scanners are capable of reading RFID stickers from as far as five meters away, making passing toll gates faster.
“According to Ang, he believes most motorists will have RFID stickers by February next year. He added, though, that SMC will retain its installation sites and continue offering free RFIDs even after that. ‘If there is no urgent need for motorists to travel and use the expressways yet, we advise you that there is no need to panic,’ he stressed. ‘You can avoid the lines and the hassle, and still get your sticker at a more convenient time.’”
“You might be thinking most of the delays at toll gates on December 1 were caused by cars without RFID stickers, since regular toll lanes have been repurposed for installation. But according to Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC), motorists with insufficient load played a bigger part in the toll plaza bottlenecks.
“During a press conference held with the DOTr and the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) on December 2, the company said it observed that motorists trying to pass toll gates with insufficient load far outnumbered those who outright need to have an RFID sticker installed.
“‘The usual peak traffic because of the three-day holiday long weekend also added to the situation kasi nag-implement po tayo ng bagong scheme and there was an expected increase in the volume of traffic because of the long weekend,’ said West Dionisio, MPTC’s assistant vice president for operations management.
“‘In terms of RFID sales, yung mga nadikitan po natin kahapon nasa 11,000 lang. Kasi we were expecting mas madami tayo madidikitan kahapon because it was the first day of implementation, but surprisingly, 11,000 lang. Konti lang po yung nagpadikit since tingin namin mukhang marami na tayong nadikitan. Yung mga dati na hindi gumagamit, ngayon ready na sila gamitin yung mga RFIDs nila.’
“So, how many motorists tried to enter with insufficient load yesterday? A whopping 35,000. That’s three times the number of cars that showed up without an RFID sticker. Dionisio said that toll plazas had to accommodate reload requests for these vehicles, causing bottlenecks.”
As for the current penetration rate of Easytrip RFIDs among motorists, MPTC estimates it is currently at 83%.
“During the press conference by the DOTr, the TRB, and the tollway operators, we asked if the traffic jams at tollways on December 1 were the result of a system overload.
“‘The system is not 100% perfect. We have to continue to review the operations. We have a matrix to tell our engineers whether our toll lanes are working according to the standards,’ admitted Romulo Quimbo, MPTC chief communications officer. ‘There is no system overload.’
“Meanwhile, Skyway O&M Corporation president Manuel Bonoan was singing a different tune. He claims the Autosweep RFID system posted a 98% reading efficiency rate: ‘For the longest time, wala kaming nakukuhang report tungkol sa hindi umangat na barrier.’
“Abraham Sales, chairman of the TRB, reminded motorists that the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) issued by the DOTr on the cashless policy clearly state that the MPTC and SMC must ‘ensure at all times, the efficient operation and maintenance of the toll collection facility.’
“The IRR also requires the tollway operators to act on the complaints of motorists within three days. Failure to do so gives the TRB the right to act on the issue in favor of the motorist. In cases like those, the TRB will impose a penalty on the company for non-compliance with the policy, which falls under Section 5.1 of the IRR.
“Abraham said the IRR took effect last November 2, 2020, and that the TRB is ready to accept complaints from motorists provided they are properly documented upon submission to the agency.”
“If you decide to head to an RFID stickering setup near EDSA, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has a stern warning for you: Do not use the busy thoroughfare as a place to queue.
“On December 3, MMDA traffic chief Bong Nebrija took to Facebook to remind people not to line up for RFID installation sites along EDSA. He also posted images of what appears to be motorists being ticketed for the infraction.
“‘I’m sorry guys but we cannot allow you to use EDSA as your queuing line for RFID,’ Nebrija said in his Facebook post. ‘If we will not do this now it will eventually get worse.’
“Grab and Gojek, two Southeast Asian ride-hailing giants, are reportedly closing in on a merger. According to Bloomberg, the two companies have made ‘substantial progress in working out a deal to combine their businesses.’
“Grab is a well-known brand here in the Philippines. It’s one of the biggest ride-sharing companies in the country that also provides food delivery and courier services. Gojek, on the other hand, might be foreign to some of you. It’s an app that was launched in Indonesia back in 2015, and its business model is similar to Grab’s. It also provides motorcycle-taxi, food-delivery, courier, and e-wallet services, and it has already established a name for itself in countries where it’s available.
“If this merger pushes through, the two companies will operate as one entity that will apparently be headed by Grab co-founder Anthony Tan. The Gojek brand, however, will be retained in Indonesia, and the new entity will be run by Gojek executives in the country.
“The report says that Grab and Gojek may still operate separately ‘for an extended period of time,’ as the merger’s end goal is to become a publicly listed company. The two companies have so far refused to comment on the matter, with neither issuing official statements as of this writing.”
“The MMDA had earlier announced that it would be closing the U-turn slot near General Malvar/Bagong Barrio on December 7. This is in line with the agency’s attempts to make EDSA Busway trips faster and more efficient. In its previous advisory, the MMDA had advised motorists to use Monumento Circle as an alternate route instead.
“On December 3, however, the agency announced that it is postponing the closure of the General Malvar U-turn slot on EDSA to January 4, 2021.
“This news comes a little over a week after the MMDA shut down the Balintawak Market and Oliveros Drive U-turn slots.”
“The construction firms responsible for the collapse of a steel girder at the Skyway Extension Project last month have been fined a total of P380,000 a day by the Department of Labor and Employment.
“Confirming a report published by GMA News, EEI Corporation said the company and its subcontractors Machinery Rentrade and Bauer Foundations Philippines were ordered to pay an administrative fine of ‘P170,000 for every day of non-compliance’ starting from receipt of the order signed by DOLE–National Capital Region director Sarah Buena Mirasol.
“One person died and four people were injured when a construction crane fell onto a girder spanning two posts of the Skyway Extension segment along East Service Road in Parañaque on November 21. Steel bars fell on three vehicles and three motorcycles.
“According to GMA News, which cited the signed order by Mirasol, the DOLE also ordered EEI to submit ‘reportorial requirements as prescribed in the Occupational Safety and Health Standards, which also impose a P30,000 fine per day until full compliance.’
“In addition, EEI was ordered to pay P100,000 for ‘death, serious injury, or serious illness,’ and required it to submit a third-party inspection certificate, of which it is fined P40,000 a day until it complies.
“The subcontractors were also ordered to pay fines: P80,000 to Mayon Machinery and P130,000 to Bauer Foundations Philippines per day of non-compliance. Mayon was ordered to submit an Occupational Safety and Health Program and safety guidelines and procedure on crane operations. Bauer, meanwhile, is required to have additional fire extinguishers as well as safety and directional signage, and to submit a proof of clear access for workers and employees.
“‘[Kung] hindi mababayaran kasi nag-a-accumulate, nagmu-multiply yan by the day. So halimbawa, since the fine is now P380,000 upon receipt...pag nag-fail sila mabayaran upon receipt, lumipas pa ng isang araw, then another P380,000. Pag hindi pa rin on the second, on the third day, another P300k, that’s how it works,’ GMA News quoted Rolly Francia, DOLE information and public service director, during a virtual press conference.”
“The MMDA suspended the said traffic schemes since the onset of quarantine to ensure ease of movement for essential goods and frontliners. Gatchalian said this worsened the traffic situation in the city, which is the gateway to Metro Manila from North and Central Luzon.
“Gatchalian also brought up the recently implemented all-RFID cashless scheme at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), which has likewise slowed traffic due to faulty sensors and errors: ‘Atras-abante bago ka makadaan, yung ibang tao napipilitan dumaan sa EDSA, MacArthur Highway para makabalik sa Valenzuela. Di naman foolproof ang system at palyado.’”
“All establishments are ordered to adopt the Stay Safe app and its QR code to centralize contact-tracing efforts, Malacañang said on Friday, December 4.
“Government offices, private companies, hotels, and business establishments as well as public transportation units are required to use the app and adopt a Safety Seal, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Inefectious Diseases said in a resolution.
“An establishment can secure a Safety Seal if they ‘include the adoption of the Stay Safe application and the generation of its QR Code to be displayed in all entrances,’ presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
“The departments of trade, health, labor, local government, tourism, and transportation were ordered to issue a joint memorandum circular detailing the requirements to secure a Safety Seal and the guidelines for adoption of the Stay Safe app.
“The Stay Safe app was developed by MVP Group’s Multisys and is free for download.”