POSTSCRIPT / September 24, 2009 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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LTO’s electronic tag cuts vehicle violations

RFID SYSTEM: High-tech is finally catching up on the motorized monsters crawling in the asphalt jungle. And that’s good.

The Land Transportation Office will soon launch what DOTC Asst. Secretary Art Lomibao, LTO chief, called the “radio frequency ID (identification)” mode of identifying and tracking down motor vehicles and their owners.

The RFID system is so simple and so inexpensive that it is a wonder it took transport authorities many years to adopt it. Studies on the RF scheme started well before Lomibao took over LTO.

The system will help ease traffic, catch unregistered and stolen vehicles, speed up registration and other RF-aided processes like toll collection, boost the anti-air pollution campaign, and assist the police fight crimes perpetrated with the use of motor vehicles.

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HOW IT WORKS: A traffic officer aims his hand-held reader’s beam at a vehicle. He does not have to flag it down and talk to the driver. At a glance his reader will display on its screen vital information about the vehicle and the owner.

The officer knows at a glance if the vehicle is improperly registered, is on the alarm list (like if it was stolen), its brand and model, its motor, body and plate numbers, its owner (but not his address), etc.

The wireless process is initiated when the portable reader’s beam hits and activates a windshield tag (an electronic sticker) unique to the vehicle. The signal links the reader to the LTO central data-base and downloads pre-selected information on the vehicle.

The sticker, the size of the LTO decal now in use, is imbedded with a small chip and an invisible antenna (similar to the defogger wiring at a vehicle’s rear window, but smaller and simpler).

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COSTS P35/YEAR: Lomibano plans to start the mounting of the tags next month for those registering or renewing their registration in October. Each RFID sticker costs P350 and is good for 10 years, making its yearly cost only P35.

Every month, another group of vehicles whose registration is falling due will be issued the RFID tags. In 12 months, all properly documented vehicles are expected to have the stickers. Those without it after a year are suspect.

With RFIDs on all vehicles, authorized officers are able to check even moving vehicles without stopping them and disrupting traffic flow. They can spot from a distance carnapped vehicles and those on the alarm list.

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RESISTANCE?: Only vehicles that pass the strict, yet speedy, computer-aided registration process will carry the RFIDs. Vehicles that are not registered (about two million of them all over the country) can be easily ferreted out.

It will be easier to catch vehicles sporting fake, unauthorized or transferred license plate numbers since they do not have the required RFID on their windshields, or their RFID data do not match the plate numbers.

And since an RFID sticker is mandatory for registration and physically bringing the vehicle for the tests is required, Lomibao said the new system would kill the racket of some emission testing centers issuing clearances even without actual smoke testing.

Who will object to this RFID tag costing only P35 a year? In this country where anything “opposable” will surely be opposed and where TROs (temporary restraining orders) are dime-a-dozen, expect some resistance.

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JUNK FOOD/DRINK: In restaurants, I often wonder why many people still order soda (soft drinks) when pure water or some other substitute would be kinder to their health.

Most parents are unaware that on many campuses, their children flock to the school canteen or cross the street to gorge on such junk food as oily french fries in burger houses and snacks laced with vetsin (MSD) or soaked in saturated fat.

Maybe because there is nothing else to eat? Or maybe there is no serious effort to teach our children and ourselves about healthy and nourishing food?

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SODA WARNING: Talking of soda, the American Heart Association has taken a stand and recommended that Americans cut back dramatically on sugar, singling out soft drinks as the top source of “discretionary” sugar calories.

The association said women should eat no more than 100 calories of added processed sugar per day, or six teaspoons (25 grams), while most men should keep it to just 150 calories or nine teaspoons (37.5 grams).

One 12-ounce (355-millilitre) can of soda, it reported, contains as much as 13 teaspoons (54.6 grams) of sugar, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

That intake is more than half the total 22 teaspoons (90 grams) or 355 calories of added sugar consumed by the average American each day, according to a 2004 US government survey.

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OBESITY & DIABETES: In the US, where beverages are a $115-billion industry, obesity-related diseases account for nearly 10 percent of all medical spending, or an estimated $147 billion annually. A related problem is the high incidence of diabetes.

“If we are serious about curbing the obesity epidemic, we have to start with the biggest culprit,” said Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, referring to soda and similarly sweetened drinks.

In California, a recent study has shown that nearly two-thirds of children aged 12 to 17 and 41 percent of children aged 2 to 11 gulp down at least one sugar-sweetened beverage each day.

Our local Food and Drug Administration may want to publish its own statistics, if any, and recommendations before the obesity and diabetes risks posed by sweetened beverages catch up on Filipino soda guzzlers.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 24, 2009)

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