Toll should be waived under extraordinary circumstances



THE primary purpose of a tollway is to allow for a faster movement of vehicles from one point to another. If the tollway is operated and maintained by a private entity, then fees are collected from the users.

Let’s take the case of the Manila-Cavite Expressway (Cavitex), a 14-kilometer expressway running along the coast of Bacoor Bay, with entry point at MIA Road and exits at Bacoor and Kawit. Toll ranges from P24 to P194.

It was announced that new RFID (Easydrive) lanes will be added at the Parañaque Toll Plaza effective May 15, 2017. This is where all the problems began. On that date, travel time from MIA Road to the toll plaza (which is a mere 3 km) took at least one hour. The reason given by the cashiers was that Easydrive was being updated and users have to pay in cash in the meantime.

There were no signs to tell the motorists that Easydrive was not operational. Drivers hazardously maneuvered to Easydrive lanes just to find out that their RFIDs were useless.

Prior to this, on May 12, Cavitex sent text messages to its registered customers: “Please be advised that we are currently having concerns on late postings of transactions. Rest assured that we are exerting all efforts to resolve this matter.”

Upon inquiry, Cavitex management claimed that the toll fees were not properly recorded by the system and that they would recalculate the fees to be deducted from the customers’ existing loads. What is happening here?

This week a lot of users were surprised when they received text messages from Cavitex: “Upon updating your Easydrive account, it showed current balance is below minimum. For the meantime, please use cash lanes at Cavitex and reload your account.”

The hapless users were not allowed by the barrier system from using the Easydrive lane, contributing to further traffic congestion in the area.

This is literally highway robbery. For instance, the last time that I passed by Cavitex, I had a remaining balance of P908. Now all of it is gone because of their system upgrade. Where did my P908 go? The Toll Regulatory Board, or even the Department of Transportation, should investigate this irregular “theft” of people’s money.

For sure, knowing the complacent and unconcerned attitude of most Filipinos, they will neither raise a howl nor lift a finger against this deplorable service of Cavitex.

By the way, Cavitex is operated and maintained by Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. This is the same outfit that manages the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) through its subsidiary, the Manila North Tollways Corp. These companies form part of the group owned by Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

Speaking of NLEX, I happened to drive up north Friday last week. Vehicular traffic was very heavy starting from the approach of the Balintawak toll plaza up to the Marilao interchange. Cars were moving at a top speed of 3 kilometers per hour. It took almost two hours for me to traverse the relatively short distance from the toll plaza up to the Marilao exit.

Again, the motorists were left on their own. There were no traffic personnel to untangle the monstrous traffic jam. There were no MNTC patrols or personnel in that fateful stretch of road. Worse, there were no signs or advisories to warn innocent motorists of what lay ahead of them in the tollway.

In the end, when I exited NLEX, I still had to pay the full fee in spite of the hellish drive that I experienced from the approach of the toll plaza up to the Marilao area. I believe that a refund mechanism should be included in the concession agreements of these tollway operators.

Monitoring systems should be installed along the tollway and warning or advisory systems should be properly displayed in all strategic points before the entries so that users would be given the option of whether or not to enter the tollway.

Big corporations, such as these tollway operators, presumably are not here to render good service to its customers but just to rake in huge revenues at the expense of the latter. Nobody cares whether or not motorists are caught in a gridlock while inside the tollway.

Is it not that tollways are built to enable us to drive without obstructions and expeditiously get to our destinations?

My insight tells me that all they care for is to collect our toll fees.

We, the people, should no longer be complacent and unperturbed when faced with these kinds of things. We should demand that services that we pay for are properly delivered—otherwise we can opt not to pay.

We should always be vigilant and stand up for our rights, and see to it that these rights are respected and not trampled upon by those in power—whether they be in the public or private sector.


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