SMC chief pens open letter to the public on RFID issue

Updated Dec 21, 2020 | Same topic: RFID (Autosweep & Easytrip)

Ramon Ang wants to reassure motorists on a number of points.

Shifting wholesale to a cashless mode of toll collection has not been easy, especially for motorists who have to put up with various challenges just to get one. Their sentiments have not fallen on deaf ears, at least for Ramon S. Ang.

Ramon Ang

The SMC boss is aware of the challenges that motorists have to face in getting RFID tags

The man in charge of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) that operates tollways using the Autosweep RFID system, addressed concerns in an open letter which has been circulating online.

Although Autosweep hasn’t been nearly as problematic as its Easytrip counterpart, Ang sought to reassure the public over certain aspects of the ongoing process.

13 Frequently Asked Questions on RFIDs for Philippine Expressways

Toll upgrades won't be passed on to road users

Ang says that the shift to RFIDs is part of public health measures. “Cashless toll collection was mandated by government as a measure against the spread of COVID-19. It is meant to eliminate physical contact and the exchange of physical money and curb the potential spread of the virus.”

Although the transition entails a considerable investment on the part of tollway operators as private businesses, he belied the notion that the added cost will be shouldered by motorists.

Toll plaza

Deploying additional equipment and personnel will be shouldered by the company

“It is not a means to extract more revenue from motorists. In fact, the additional expenditures being made for the unplanned implementation of 100 percent electronic toll collection…will not be passed on in the form of higher toll fees.”

Although Autosweep has been available free to motorists for the past five years, he admits that SMC was not prepared for the resulting demand, especially with a lead time of mere months for cashless toll implementation.

>>> Related: Tap cards serve as backup to RFID cashless payment: TRB

Sticker supplies have been affected by the pandemic

The same surge in demand overwhelmed SMC’s capability to supply the stickers to the public. Contrary to popular belief that the stickers are just printed, Ang explains that these are specially ordered from foreign suppliers.

These contractors have not been immune to manpower and production issues arising from pandemic restrictions in their respective countries, resulting in limited and staggered deliveries of the sought-after RFID tags.

Autosweep sticker

Autosweep stickers are ordered from overseas suppliers

Nevertheless, he guarantees that the orders and arrivals for the stickers are still within the company’s timetable, even as he declared that all Autosweep toll plazas are now fully-compliant with RFID toll collection.

SMC currently has 94 stickering stations for Autosweep, out of a planned 156 outlets by the end of 2020 spanning venues such as gas stations, transport terminals, LGU municipal halls, and major arenas.

The company is working towards interoperability

Ang notes that the issue of interoperability between Autosweep and Easytrip is not a new one for all stakeholders concerned. “While the DOTR and both companies have been working on interoperability prior to the pandemic, for so many years…both operators, independent of each other, continued investing and using the technology that worked best for them.

RFID cards

Both toll operators have been working on interoperability for years

>>> Related: Complete list of 24/7 Autosweep, Easytrip RFID installation sites

Separate toll operators also mean two different systems in place, with Autosweep allowing users to link their Easytrip accounts, but not the other way around. Ang says that the added complexity for the latter scenario is a challenge they are working to hurdle.

“The pandemic, which nobody foresaw, and the mandate by the government for expressways to go fully cashless for safety and health reasons, which nobody also prepared for prior to the quarantine, makes interoperability even more important.”

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Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Author

Joseph has been a member of various car clubs since he got his driver's license in 2004 – old enough to remember riding in taxicabs with analog meters, but his fascination with cars goes way back. After nearly two decades of working in broadcast media, he shifted gears by coming on board as Philkotse’s first Filipino member and staff writer in 2017.

Apart from his role in Philkotse as Content Team Lead, Joseph has written episodes for Drive, which has been airing on CNN Philippines for five seasons running. He has also delivered content for various car dealerships based in the U.S., spanning multiple brands such as Alfa Romeo, Maserati, Jeep, Dodge, among others.

Keeping his hopes high and his revs low, he dreams about owning a Kei car when he retires. Hates slow parkers.

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