Drilon meets with toll execs to integrate collections, end traffic jams
MANILA, Philippines – Wary of unnecessary traffic, Senate President Franklin Drilon has strongly recommended to tollway officials to integrate toll collection in the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTex) by February.
The idea, the Senate leader said, would be to ensure smooth, hitch-free travel for motorists driving up North.
Meeting them personally, Drilon asked the officials to speed up the crafting of the integration plan beginning with the signing of an integration agreement on Feb. 12 in his office at the Senate.
“The integration of the NLEx and SCTEx toll systems will benefit commuters, especially in saving travel time and fuel and increasing convenience for those driving through the tollways,’’ he said.
In the long holidays coinciding with Pope Francis’ visit from last Thursday to Monday, the media reported traffic buildup on the NLEx.
Drilon had bewailed the 11-hour long travel to Baguio City during the holidays, no thanks to the slow manual ticketing at NLEx and SCTEx that led to the buildup of cars of holiday makers. Drilon was among the travelers trapped in the traffic jam at the NLEx.
Shortly after, Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III filed a resolution proposing toll-free passage for motorists at the expressways during holiday-related days to avoid congestion at the tollgates.
NLEx is linked with Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx).
South of Manila, motorists pass through the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway, and the Cavite Expressway (Cavitex).
Recently, Drilon met with Transportation Undersecretary Jose Lotilla, Arnel Casanova of Bases Conversion Development Authority, Ramoncito Fernandez of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), Robert Suansing of Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), and officials of Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) to discuss the integration plan for NLEX and SCTEX.
Drilon said the integration would simplify toll collection system and lessen the number of toll collection booths.
He observed that the current setup has been too complex and should be improved.
“We cannot understand why we have to make five stops going to Subic and four stops going to Tarlac only to pay toll fees, when we can make things better and simpler by simply allowing commuters to pay their fares in full in only one toll plaza,” he said.
Quoting BCDA officials, Drilon said the preparation, including the removal of the NLEx-Dau and SCTEx-Mabalacat barriers, and the commissioning of the NLEx integrated toll collection system in all SCTEx and NLEx toll plazas, would take nine months to be completed.
“With the system integration, motorists will no longer have to make several stops only to pay for fares. That means that everyone will soon only have to stop twice in paying tolls throughout NLEx and the SCTEx, as compared to the current situation where we have to stop five times just to pay our fares,” he said.
A motorist gets a transit ticket at NLEx entry point in Balintawak, surrenders it and pays toll at NLEx Dau. He then gets a smart card at SCTEx Mabalacat and surrenders it and pays toll fees at SCTEx Tipo toll plaza, only to pay new toll fees at Subic Freeport Expressway-Tipo.
Drilon urged tollway authorities and relevant agencies to “exercise diligence’’ and hasten the reforms in the toll collection systems in view of the surge of motorists and travellers during holidays.
“To expedite the process, the TRB will simultaneously monitor and review the toll collection systems integration agreement to make sure it will be in conformity with the policy of the government,’’ he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.