Suspend cashless fare system, groups urge
Amid the confusion caused by the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) implementation of cashless fare payments and charges of profiteering during a pandemic, furious commuters urged the government to suspend the new fare card system if it could not do its job of regulating costs.
“The government should be the one to issue [fare cards] so there will be no profiteerinng. This was supposed to be for public health, to reduce human contact in public transportation,” said Renato Reyes, secretary general of leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
Bayan was among several groups that urged the government to suspend the new system because the fare card being used, marketed as Beep by the AF Payments Inc., was being used to profiteer during a pandemic.
On its launching day on Thursday, fare cards that used to cost only P50 were being sold for P180—or P100 for the card and only P80 load—at bus stations.
“Why did the cost of card and load reach P180? Why is there a service fee of P5? Why is there a maintaining balance of P65?,” Reyes asked.
The consumer group Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Konsyumer para sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan (Suki) said consumers will continue to be at the losing end as long as the “government allows businessmen to run public transportation.”
“P80 for only the card, aside from the fare, is burdensome. If this was meant to counter COVID-19, why charge the public. Shouldn’t this be covered by the government?” said Suki spokesperson Reggie Vallejos.
Gabriela Women’s Rep. Arlene Brosas urged the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to stop the new system if it could not regulate the profiteering of private companies.
“Just imagine, commuters, mostly low-income workers were forced to pay P80 for a Beep card, P100 for load with a maintaining balance of P65 and a P5 convenience fee per load for third party service providers. LTFRB should suspend this policy, and refund the commuters,” she said.
Brosas said the government should not use the pandemic and health measures to justify the profiteering of bus companies and AF Payments Inc., a joint venture of Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.
On Friday, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said he had ordered his subordinates to issue the Beep cards to consumers for free and that the minimum load requirement be scrapped. “I already discussed with them where to get the source of funding for that,” Tugade said.
At the budget hearing of the DOTr in the Senate, he told senators: “Don’t worry. I have already suggested to the service provider not to charge for the cards anymore. [Commuters] should not pay for the cards since they would load them anyway for sure,” Tugade said.
But Assistant Transportation Secretary Goddes Libiran said it was still being “negotiated.”
“The dialogue and negotiation between the Mega Manila Consortium and AF Payments Inc. is ongoing, so a solution can be made. Let’s see how they will react to the position of the DOTr,” Libiran said. —WITH REPORTS FROM MELVIN GASCON AND MARLON RAMOS
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