San Miguel Corporation (SMC) president Ramon S. Ang has asked the Department of Transportation to consider extending the deadline for mandatory cashless transactions as motorists continue to line up to secure their radio-frequency identification (RFID) stickers.
Ang said that 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 – the volume is just too much.
“I have been monitoring the situation. 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,” Ang said.
Ang said that although all toll plazas of the SMC expressways are ready and fully equipped for the shift to 100% electronic toll collection, a “huge number” of motorists have yet to secure their RFID stickers.
“My honest opinion is we will really need at least until February. And that is what we are asking government. To allow us to retain even just a few cash lanes until February,” Ang said.
“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,” Ang added.
He said that the government’s decision to extend the deadline from November 2 to December 1 and not to fully enforce penalties until after January 11 was “the right call.”
However, Ang said that the increase in applications from non-regular users of expressways who are trying to beat the deadline is one of the main reasons that lines remain long at sticker installation sites along with strict distancing protocols.