SOME car owners, leaders of the transportation industry and militant leaders question the new policy being implemented by the Land Transportation Office (LTO). The agency is installing Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID) on all motor vehicles nationwide. Critics said that this project is additional financial burden to vehicle owners and another form of money-making venture of the government. Militant leaders expressed fears that this project intrudes on privacy and a form of surveillance and monitoring against government opposition.

Senatorial candidate and former National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) director general Ralph Recto and some legislators also questioned the project, saying it's illegal because it does not have the approval of the Neda Board nor did it pass through the regular bidding process.

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I had a chance to talk with Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Assistant Secretary Arturo Lomibao, who is also the LTO chief, during his recent visit here. He explained that the RFID will serve various purposes for vehicle owners and for government law enforcement agencies. It also passed through government regular procedures before its implementation.

The RFID is a new system that transmits the identity of an object or person wirelessly using radio frequency waves. The RFID system involves the use of a tag and a reader. The tag or sticker has a microchip that stores the unique number assigned to a vehicle. The number is used to identify and verify all necessary information about the vehicle. The reader, on the other hand, is used to retrieve and pass on digital information received from a tag to LTO's computer system.

RFID automatically screens, detects and identifies motor vehicles for compliance to rules and regulations set by the LTO and other government agencies. It also ensures efficiency and effectiveness of the government's enforcement program and enhances law enforcement capabilities. It can help combat fraudulent practices, such as carnapping and smuggling.

The project also eradicates the practice of non-appearance of vehicles subject to smoke-emission testing. It brings added security to vehicle owners as it can electronically identify and verify propriety over vehicles. It provides protection to commuters since it can automatically identify and verify franchise records of public utility vehicles. The system is also seen as a solution to traffic woes and air pollution.

The tag will be placed on the vehicle's windshield for easy identification. The tag is tamper-proof and non-transferrable. On the issue that it's another form of money-making venture, Lomibao said that only a few percent will go to the government's coffers. Also, the fee of P350 is good for the next 10 years.

Lomibao said government critics and militant leaders have nothing to worry about once the project is fully implemented because it is not a surveillance gadget. Only the name of the owner and the details of the vehicle like engine, chassis and plate numbers (franchise and route for PUJ) are stored in the RFID. By October, everything will be in place and the six million vehicles nationwide will have RFID tags by then.

(bgnalzaro@gmanetwork.com)