MANILA, Philippines – The controversial radio frequency identification (RFID) or “spy chip” project of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) is illegal, according to the National Economic and Development Authority.
NEDA Director General Augusto Santos told congressmen during the recent plenary debates on the 2010 national budget that such a project must be approved by his agency’s investment coordinating committee as required by regulations.
Santos confirmed the statement of his predecessor, former economic planning secretary Ralph Recto, that NEDA did not pass upon the RFID plan as to its necessity and reasonableness of the fee that the public would have to shoulder because it was not submitted to the agency.
He made the confirmation in answer to questions raised by Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, who vowed to question LTO’s RFID project even before the courts.
Also in response to Plaza, Santos said if NEDA approves the RFID plan, LTO would have to conduct a public bidding for the supply of the chips.
The agency cannot negotiate with and give the multibillion-peso contract to a favored supplier, he said.
Plaza said LTO chief Arturo Lumibao wants to punish all motor vehicle owners for his agency’s failure to flush out unregistered vehicles and unauthorized public utility jeepneys and buses.
He said Lumibao would make each of the more than five million motor vehicle owners throughout the country pay P350 for his RFID chip just so he and his people could run after violators of transportation and traffic rules.
Under the plan, each vehicle would be required to have two RFID chips – one in its front windshield and one at the back – upon registration or renewal of registration.
The chip would contain information about the vehicle and its owner. LTO plans to give certain law enforcers with RFID readers to check on motor vehicles.
This has alarmed many motor vehicle owners and human rights and privacy advocates, who said the government could use the RFID chip for spying. They said it could also be used for harassment and extortion.
LTO’s favored chip supplier reportedly stands to make at least P2 billion from the project.
Because of the huge amount involved, Plaza said some LTO officials and their administration backers are obviously out to raise election campaign funds.
“This is a one-for-the-road deal that these corrupt officials and their padrinos in high places are making almost on the eve of the election campaign,” he said.
Because of the controversy it has generated, President Arroyo has ordered Lumibao to shelve his RFID project for further study.
Lumibao however has expressed determination to push through with his “spy” chip plan.