Review cashless payment system, transport groups urge gov’t
Bus operators lauded the government’s move to implement cashless transactions in the transport sector but lamented inadequacies in the system that appeared to be designed only for particular companies.
“Are we ready for the system?” asked Alex Yague, executive director of the Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines.
“Cashless payments are really a good system, but it has its implications on passengers who have to buy the card with residual and stored value,” Yague said.
“It works in other countries because every station has [vending machines], convenience stores. You can also use them to buy food at convenience stores. Passengers are ready for that,” he added.
But instead of making it convenient for commuters and consumers, the new system has limited width and breadth but with “added cost on the part of the passenger,” Yague said.
“The service provider also charges operators 4 to 6 percent of the value of the ticket for using their system,” he added.
President Duterte, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had already ordered public transport operators and providers of automatic fare collection systems (AFCS) to remove any charges or fees imposed on commuters for the purchase of the cards used in cashless transactions.
The LTFRB started the free distribution of fare cards, marketed as Beep cards by AF Payments Inc., on Friday.
Yague noted that much remains to be done in terms of infrastructure despite the boom in internet commerce and the use of bank cards in online transactions.
But the Pilipino Society and Development Advocates Commuter-Consumer urged the government to not miss the chance to spread cashless transactions as it moves to restart the economy which has slipped to its worst recession in years.
“If the government decided to give [fare] cards for free, it will actually stimulate reopening the economy,” said lawyer Argee Guevarra, the group’s convenor.
“Not all public utilities should be a money-making adventure, and the government can use some of the funds to be released to the DOTr under the Bayanihan 2 for the distribution of these cards,” he said.
“Giving away free [fare] cards to passengers in the form of ayuda (cash aid) can be the most basic contribution of the government to stimulate our economic activity,” he added.
“Of course, we all want the cashless payment scheme, but there’s economic dislocation of drivers and workers in the time of pandemic,” Guevarra said.
He said the system could be implemented in phases over the next three to six months with a view to “retooling and rehiring” dislocated conductors and other public transportation workers for the distribution of the cards.