MANILA, Philippines – Beep operator AF Payments Incorporated (AFPI) clarified that they do not profit from cards sold to the public, despite selling their cards online at higher prices.
“We vehemently deny allegations of profiteering by taking advantage of the current global shortage of chips and selling cards at higher prices,” AFPI said in an emailed statement on Monday, December 5.
Currently, beep cards sold online go for P188 each, excluding shipping fees. Online beep cards also have no initial load balance. Beep cards at train stations are sold at P100 each, with an initial load balance of P70, making the cards effectively cost only P30.
“To date, we have already spent a total of P300M in subsidies since we started full operations in 2015, by virtue of a concession agreement between AFPI and the Philippine government,” AFPI said.
The beep operator has covered subsidies worth P48 million in 2022, and expects to cover another P70 million in 2023. AFPI explained that the cards, which can cost up to P148.50, are sold to rail operators at only P50. The rail operators further subsidize P20, bringing the ultimate selling price to just P30 for railway commuters.
However, AFPI admitted that beep cards sold through other distribution channels or online are priced higher.
“In sectors not covered by the Concession Agreement (bus, ferry, retail), beep™ cards are sold at cost or at a price point that factors in the card cost and distribution cost, etc. Online channels, meanwhile, would have additional operating costs, packaging, VAT, and commissions to the online platforms, hence priced a little higher,” AFPI said.
AFPI also stated that they may stop their online selling at any time since they have nearly sold all cards allocated for online distribution.
“As of this writing, we may have to discontinue online selling anytime now as we are about to reach 1% of allocated cards to be sold online. We have not anticipated that the demand for cards online would be this strong,” they said.
The vast bulk of their cards – around 94% – still go to railway operators. Currently, AFPI has delivered 150,000 cards to railways, which represents about 80% of orders for the year.
Even with beep cards becoming available online, commuters continue to grapple with shortages. Senator Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public services, has since called on the Department of Transportation to look deeper into the issue.
“The Department of Transportation should explain the scarcity of beep cards that burdens our people using trains. The time spent lining up for every single-journey ticket is a moment wasted for our already weary commuters,” Poe said in a statement. – Rappler.com