By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Sen. Grace Poe said that a leadership change in the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) is necessary to effect reforms in the running of the country’s tollways, including the implementation of the cashless system.
“There should be a leadership change. We’ve seen that the Toll Regulatory Board executive director did not do much within the past three years,” said Poe, when asked about the agency in an interview Friday.
The chairperson of the Senate committee on public services noted “several breakdowns in the line of responsibility” that resulted in the chaotic implementation of the cashless system using the radio frequency identification (RFID).
Poe pointed out that the TRB is chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr). Thus, culpability also goes up to the ranks. A Transportation undersecretary has been designated to oversee the performance of the TRB and report regularly to the agency.
“There’s that command responsibility and, so, I appreciate the candidness of the secretary admitting that he’s partly to blame for it,” she added.
“They have a yearly evaluation which they submitted to the concessionaires and apparently did not furnish Secretary (Arthur) Tugade a copy… The DOTr encompasses so many different subagencies, and the TRB is just one of them… But he didn’t send somebody proactive or, if I may say, competent… Usec. (Ruben) Reinoso apparently did not report all the developments on the NLEX to Secretary Tugade. So, Secretary Tugade apparently didn’t know what was going on,” Poe said.
Despite the glitches happening in the rollout of the cashless toll system for the past three years, Poe noted that nothing was done to fix them, causing inconvenience to thousands of motorists.
“The glitches happened not just last month, it happened on the NLEX since 2017. Mayors have been lodging their complaints, only to fall on deaf ears,” she said.
Poe said officials should have been quick in seeing the manifestations of the disorganized implementation of the new contactless transaction system and should have meted penalties to the erring parties.
Asked during the interview, Poe agreed that it was hard for Tugade not to notice the gridlock along NLEX as he was supposed to pass along the expressway to get to his office in Clark in Pampanga.
The past few weeks saw the expressways turn into a parking lot with kilometric queues of vehicles inching their way to get past the booths that then required the stickers.
Poe said that motorists were willing to comply with the cashless transactions, but found it hard to secure the RFID stickers. There are also instances of unauthorized deductions on the load of the stickers even if they are not being used, among other problems.
“Remember three years, and the TRB did not even have the schedule for the penalties. They didn’t even write what the penalties would be and for the past three years, the NLEX concessionaire got away with many glitches that they didn’t correct. That’s why it was already a symptom that was there,” she said.
“When they implemented… the 100 percent cashless system, without even studying it properly, then it was really pandemonium in the NLEX,” Poe added. (FC/MTVN)