Various groups raised their concerns over government’s “no beep card, no ride policy” after the Department of Transportation (DoTr) enforced a cashless automatic fare collection scheme on EDSA busways.
This measure was implemented on Thursday, October 1, in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 among public transport users.
In a statement, spokesperson of labor group Defend Jobs Philippines Christian Lloyd Magsoy criticized the policy as a money-making scheme.
“Instead of aiding our workers and people in providing [an] affordable and accessible mass public transportation system, the government has long been treating the transport sector as [a way] to generate more profit [rather] than serving its purpose as a social service,” Magsoy said.
Additional burden to Filipino workers
The Beep cards being offered at bus stations cost P180 – the card itself costs P80 with load worth P100. Compare this with the P30 cards being offered at rail stations.
On top of this, Beep cards have a P5 convenience charge for third-party loading services and requires having to maintain a P65 balance.
The group urged the DOTr to refund the charge fee, permanently waive the convenience charge for third-party services, and nullify the maintaining balance.
Defend Jobs Philippines also stressed that this would mean an additional cost to the already burdened Filipino workers who are bearing the brunt of an economic downturn during this pandemic. (READ: How the Philippines can recover from the coronavirus pandemic)
With the majority of Filipino workers depending on public transportation on a regular basis, they asserted that the move would be “untimely, unjust, and will never be tolerable.”
Call for suspension
Similarly, Gabriela Women’s party-list pointed out that the “anomalous pricing” of Beep cards would add to the burden of mostly low-income workers who are left with little to no choice but to purchase them.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas called for an immediate suspension of the policy and asserted that the government should manage the ticketing aspect of transport systems instead.
“Isa na naman itong patunay kung para kanino ang gobyernong ito – para sa mga negosyante, oligarkiya, at pahirap sa mga manggagawa at maralita,” Brosas said in a statement. (This is one more proof of who this government is for – for the businessmen, oligarchs, and the oppression of workers and the poor.)
Brosas also said this policy not only burdens commuters, but also transportation conductors and inspectors who were laid off from their jobs with the shift to a cashless payment system.
The Beep cards are being produced by AF Payments Inc, a joint venture of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation and Ayala Corporation. For Brosas, the government should not depend on private companies to carry out its mandate of providing an efficient public transportation system for ordinary Filipinos.
Given the backlash, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade urged DOTr officials and AF Payments Inc to provide commuters Beep cards for free.
“Malaking bagay para sa mga ordinaryong manggagawa ang P30-P50 na ikakaltas para bayaran ang card ng Beep. Pasahe din ‘yun. (The deduction of P30-P50 from payments for the Beep card would be a big thing for ordinary workers. It’s also transport fare.) They should be spared from the burden of having to pay the price of the beep card on top of their fares,” Tugade said in a press release.
Earlier in September, the transportation department proposed to reduce the required physical distance between public transport riders from one meter to 0.75 meter to boost mobility and help revive the economy. This was suspended days later after President Rodrigo Duterte raised concerns about the policy. – with reports from Russell Ku/Rappler.com