Ramon Ang Appeals to DOTr to Extend Deadline for Cashless Transactions on Toll Roads
San Miguel Corporation (SMC) president Ramon S. Ang is appealing to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to consider a further extension for motorists of its order to implement 100 percent cashless transactions at all expressways. He made the appeal as long lines of motorists continue to queue in toll booths and designated RFID tagging stations as the nation’s main tollways approach the mandatory cashless transaction deadline set by the government.
The current deadline is set on Tuesday, December 1, but Ang assured the government that all lanes at toll plazas of the expressways it operates—Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR), Southern Luxon Expressway (SLEX), the Skyway System, NAIA Expressway, and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX)—are ready and fully equipped for the shift to 100 percent electronic toll collection.
According to Ang, there is still a huge number of motorists that have still not secured their RFID stickers, that should be given due consideration.
“I have been monitoring the situation,” Ange said. “We only have a few days to go, and yet our sticker installation sites are still packing long lines, especially this last weekend before implementation on December 1. Given the surge in last-minute applications we’re seeing, we don’t think we will be able to serve everyone. A large number of motorists will not make it to the December 1 deadline.”
The huge volume of applicants for RFID installation comes despite the company’s efforts to roll out additional measures to fast-track the installation of stickers—including opening 100 additional sticker installation sites and implementing 24 hours installation at major locations.
“My honest opinion is we will really need at least until February. And that is what we are asking government,” Ang said. “To allow us to retain even just a few cash lanes until February. Majority of lanes at toll plazas can be ETC, because anyway, the tollway operators have complied and equipped all lanes for cashless transactions. We can then assign some lanes for continued stickering, and at least one lane for cash payments. This is in case traffic builds up due to long lines at stickering lanes. Some motorists can still opt to pay in cash, and just have their sticker installed on their next trip.”
The government had originally set November 2 as the deadline for cashless transactions, but extended it to December 1. However, the government said that motorists will not be penalized if they use the tollways without RFID stickers beyond December 1. Ang said this decision was “the right call.”
What aggravated the situation was the increase in applications from non-regular users of expressways trying to beat the December deadline, which Ang says is one of the main reasons lines remain long at sticker installation sites along with strict distancing protocols.
“As the DOTr itself said, there really is no need to panic if you are a non-regular user of expressways,” Ang added. “Even with the scheduled implementation on December 1, motorists with no stickers will not be apprehended. Also, stickering will continue at the toll plazas and installation sites. In fact, these will continue even after January.
“But given that many motorists still want to get their stickers as soon as possible, I think we can still accommodate them. Because anyway, those who have secured their stickers earlier will already realize the benefits of government’s mandate, and that is convenience and added safety. For those that have not been able to get theirs, I think we won’t lose anything by providing them some consideration. We hope government will study this option carefully. At the end of the day, we will abide by what they say.”
In addition to SMC, the other major toll road operator is the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC), which is owned end controlled by the group controlled by Manny Pangilinan. MPTC North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), Cavite Expressway (Cavitex), Harbour Link, and Cala Expressway.