MANILA (Mabuhay) – A simplified toll collection system in the North Luzon and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressways (NLEX and SCTEX) may soon come about after Senate President Franklin Drilon met with officials of the Bases Conversion Development Authority and the Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation last week.
In a statement Monday, Drilon said he imposed a deadline for BCDA and MPTC to approve and implement the NLEX-SCTEX integration as a way of avoiding the dilemma and inconvenience experienced by commuters, especially during peak seasons.
At the height of the holiday exodus last month, Drilon complained that he was on the road for more than 11 hours traveling from San Juan to Baguio City. He cited the inefficient toll collection system.
Early last week, the Senate leader met with the officials of the Department of Transportation and Communication, BCDA, MPTC, Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), and Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) to iron out issues in implementing the planned integration for NLEX and SCTEX, which has been pending for years.
Among those present were DOTC Undersecretary Jose Lotilla, Ramoncito Fernandez of MPTC, Rodrigo Franco of MNTC, Arnel Casanova of BCDA, and Robert Suansing of TRB.
Drilon urged the officials to fast-track the integration plan by signing the agreement scheduled on February 12 this year in the Office of the Senate President.
“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.
The integration will simplify toll collection and lessen the number of toll collection plazas.
“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,” said Drilon.
He noted that the current setup is too complex and only stands to benefit from the improvement the integration will bring about.
“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,” Drilon said.
The same predicament
Given the dilemma commuters faced, especially during holidays, Drilon said it is only proper that changes and reforms are put in place, so the public will not have to endure the same predicament over again.
BCDA noted that the preparations will take seven to nine months to complete, covering the removal of NLEX-Dau and SCTEX-Mabalacat barriers and the deployment and commissioning of NLEX integrated toll collection system in all SCTEX and new NLEX toll plazas, Drilon said.
“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,” Drilon said.
Drilon said a motorist gets a transit ticket at NLEX entry point in Balintawak, and surrenders it and pays toll fees at NLEX Dau. A smart card is then given at SCTEX Mabalacat, to be surrendered and the toll paid at SCTEX Tipo plaza, only to pay new toll fees again at Subic Freeport Expressway-Tipo.
Tollway authorities and relevant agencies must “exercise diligence” and hasten the reforms in the toll collection systems, given the expected surge of motorists and travelers during the Holy Week and summer vacation, according to the senator.
This is the first phase of the integration, Drilon noted.
Making travel to the North more seamless and convenient are currently being planned and discussed, including the integration of the NLEX and SCTEX with the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway and the interoperability of the North and South expressways, he added. (MNS)