NLEX CORP. on Tuesday said it will seek “a series of dialogues” with Valenzuela City Mayor Rex T. Gatchalian after the local government revoked the toll operator’s business permit over the heavy traffic caused by the implementation of its cashless toll payment system.
“We are reviewing the situation and are doing everything necessary to address the issues,” NLEX Corp. President J. Luigi Bautista said in an e-mailed statement.
He said the company would seek “amicable and cooperative initiatives between the tollway company and the City of Valenzuela.”
On Monday, Valenzuela City suspended NLEX Corp.’s business permit for Karuhatan-Mindanao Avenue Toll Plaza, Karuhatan-Harborlink Toll Plaza, Karuhatan-MacArthur Highway Sub-Exit, Mindanao Avenue Toll Plaza, Paso de Blas Toll Plaza North Bound, Paso de Blas Toll Plaza South Bound, and Lawang Bato Toll Booth.
Mr. Gatchalian said without a business permit, NLEX Corp. cannot collect fees at the seven toll plazas within the jurisdiction of Valenzuela City.
NLEX Corp. had requested Valenzuela City on Dec. 5 for an extension of 15 days within which to respond to the concerns raised by the local government, Mr. Gatchalian said in his Dec. 7 letter to Mr. Bautista.
The Valenzuela City government rejected the tollway firm’s request.
“As I have already stated, I have been calling the attention of your higher-ups regarding the technical glitches and inefficiency of your then EasyTrip (and later, RFID) for the past seven years. You, therefore, had more than enough and reasonable time to make your system stable and reliable,” Mr. Gatchalian said in his letter posted on the official Facebook page of Valenzuela City.
On Tuesday, Mr. Bautista said: “These glitches that are occurring at the toll booths are simply a result of some adjustments that should be expected because the RFID implementation took effect only eight days ago.”
The tollways firm said it would “continue to pursue a series of consultations and dialogues with the Valenzuela Mayor in good faith.”
A resolution asking the Senate to review concession deals of toll operators has been filed in the chamber following issues in implementing the cashless payments system.
Senate Resolution No. 587 asks the body to exercise its oversight function to look into existing concession agreements as well as the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB).
“There is a need to review the concession agreements of existing tollway operators to check if the operation of their toll collection system conforms to the minimum standard specifications for operations and maintenance under toll operations certificate or agreement,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, vice chairman of the economic affairs committee, said in a statement on Tuesday.
The lawmaker also recommended that the TRB impose a toll holiday due to glitches in the radio frequency identification device (RFID) system. The mandatory electronic toll collection was implemented since Dec. 1 to lessen human contact amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“These malfunctioning RFID sensors and installation of RFID stickers exacerbated the already dismal traffic situation in the tollways and nearby roads since the start of the shift to a purely cashless toll collection system,” he said.
Mr. Gatchalian said NLEX Corp. Senior Vice President for Communications Romulo S. Quimbo, Jr. had admitted there were defective RFID sensors as reported by motorists, and had committed to address concerns.
The lawmaker however said there is gross negligence on the part of the toll operator.
“Thousands of motorists have been suffering from the horrendous traffic that has been going on for a week now and which could have been prevented had they exercised prudence before setting a deadline on the implementation of the RFID system,” he said.
NLEX Corp. is under Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., a unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which is one of the three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd. The two others are PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining Corp. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., maintains interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arjay L. Balinbin and Charmaine A. Tadalan