DESPITE protest by several transport and militant groups, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) on Monday started implementing the controversial tagging of motor vehicles in the country through the Radio Frequency Identification Device (RFID).
LTO Chief Arturo Lomibao defended the decision to implement the scheme as he allayed fears of those who opposed the program, saying it would not violate one's right to privacy.
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"There's no truth to that contention. There is no invasion of privacy in this program," Lomibao said.
He added that the only information about the vehicle owner that will be made available are his or her name, vehicle type and plate number.
RFID is a cutting edge technology that uses radio waves to identify vehicles and related information remotely and in real time.
The use of this technology, according to Lomibao, will also allow the agency and other law enforcement agencies to access vehicle information to aid in traffic management, law enforcement and crime prevention.
The new system involves the tagging of a sticker on all vehicles. The sticker contains a microchip that will store vehicle information, which can only be retrieved by authorized LTO personnel and law enforcers, thereby eliminating tampering.
The tags will last for 10 years and will be made available to at least 4.76 million vehicles. Vehicle owners will have to shell P350 for the RFID tag.
Authorities said the RFID is a technology that has been widely used in other countries like China, Dubai, Singapore and some states in the United States to aid law enforcers in identifying, screening and detecting motor vehicles that break regulations.
Lomibao said he expects all vehicles to have the stickers containing the microchip by the end of October.
The official likewise defended the amount that vehicle owners will have to pay, saying it was not overpriced as alleged by the oppositions.
"This amount is very fair and reasonable," he said, adding that it has also undergone a study by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).
Earlier, Vince Dizon, Stradcom Corp. Vice President for Media and Public Relaions said the program has already gotten the nod of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) when the privacy rights issue was explained.
Stradcom is the computerization contractor of the LTO for the said project.
But members of the militant transport group, Pinag-isang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide (Piston), staged Monday morning a rally at the LTO main office at East Avenue, Quezon City condemning the RFID implementation.
Piston Secretary General George San Mateo said the RFID was another moneymaking scheme of the administration to fund the campaign of its candidates in the 2010 elections.
At the same time, he said that CHR chief Leila De Lima might have been misled by the LTO when she supported the project's implementation as he urged other members of the transport sector to come out in the open against the tagging of vehicles.
"There will be not let-up in our mass actions. We will continue opposing this money-making scheme of the DOTC, LTO and Stradcom," he added.
San Mateo said the project should not push through as the DOTC and the LTO have committed numerous violations in its zeal to pursue its implementation, including the failure to conduct a public bidding, as well as the lack of approval from the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
Piston, along with congressmen from party-list groups Bayan Muna and Anakpawis and Gabriela, filed last December 16 a petition before the SC asking it to stop the implementation of the RFID project.
Gabriela Party-list Representative Liza Maza earlier said the DOTC and the LTO should have first conducted an information drive to educate the public on the new technology.
Though she lauded the technology, Maza also said it could violate the right to privacy not to mention the cost in the installation of the tracking device. (AH/Sunnex)