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Tugade orders scrapping of new Skyway toll scheme

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade ordered the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) to scrap the new collection scheme at the Skyway on Wednesday, January 31, after it caused chaotic traffic along the expressway.

Tugade said the new toll collection scheme will not be implemented until it can be executed smoothly. He added that the public must be properly informed before any new schemes are implemented.

"These changes have to be communicated well to the public. We cannot afford confusion on the road because that will surely result in congestion," said Tugade.

"Dapat mas mabilis ang biyahe sa mga expressway kaya nga 'express.' Ang mga karagdagang toll plaza, dapat nagpapabilis din ng biyahe and not the other way around," he added.

(Travel should be faster that's why it's called "express." Additional toll plazas should make travel faster and not the other way around.)

On Saturday, January 27, operator Skyway O&M Corporation implemented a new toll collection scheme with the opening of the Runway Toll Plaza along the northbound section of the elevated Skyway.

The new scheme led to heavy traffic and sparked public outrage, forcing the Skyway management to revert to the old scheme late Tuesday night, January 30. (READ: Skyway reverts to old toll plaza scheme after chaotic traffic)

Gradual implementation

In a statement on Wednesday, however, Skyway management said they still plan to pursue gradual implementation of the new toll collection scheme.

"So far, we have significantly cut down congestion from the system's pre-implementation level to last night's modified scheme. That means it works, but we realized we cannot be too aggressive in deploying it as it has adversely affected a lot of motorists who have yet to get used to the system," Skyway O&M Corporation said.

The Skyway management also said they continue to look for solutions to traffic, and again appealed for patience and understanding.

"Ultimately, we believe this will lead to more convenience for motorists and even those not using the Skyway," they said.

"Moving forward, we remain committed to working with all stakeholders, in continuing to study and find ways to mitigate traffic volume to improve our service to the public."

Unified RFID tags

The DOTr said the TRB and expressway operators in the country have already facilitated the use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags along expressways since December 2017.

Motorists may already use the same Easytrip RFID tags in expressways operated by the Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC), including the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Cavite Expressway (Cavitex), and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). Users only have to visit a loading kiosk for account registration, the DOTr said.

Meanwhile, motorists using autosweep readers along expressways owned by San Miguel Corporation (SMC) will have to wait by the first quarter of 2018 for their readers to read Easytrip tags as well – part of the second phase of the DOTr's project.

These expressways include the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway, Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), and Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway (NAIAX).

The TRB is in talks with SMC and its software provider to reprogram the system. By March, the DOTr said SMC-operated expressways should be able to read Easytrip RFID tags but will have to use two accounts for their tags.

By September 2018, all motorists should be able to travel north to south with just one account when the 3rd phase ends, the DOTr said. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.