"It breaks your heart, really."
Citing the plight of poor Filipino commuters, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday, October 5, that he will ask Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to distribute commuter Beep cards for free. Duterte said this will ease the public's burden at a time when budgets are tight due to COVID-19.
"Money is really hard to come by," Duterte said in his weekly recorded address. "Give the card free."
Filipinos were supposed to pay P80 ($1.6) for each Beep card that will allow them to use the bus system along Metro Manila's main thoroughfare EDSA. The Department of Transportation suspended its "no Beep card, no ride" policy effective Monday, however, after service provider AF Payments refused to waive the P80 fee.
Duterte said Filipino commuters "were not prepared" for the Beep card system. The Beep cards had long been used for the Philippines' train systems, similar to countries like Singapore, but this is the first time they were required of bus commuters along EDSA.
"Card lang naman 'yan, ibigay na 'yan libre. Bakit pabayaran pa 'yan? We have been wasting so many billions to corruption tapos 'yan 'di maibigay?" (That's just a card, let's just give it for free. Why should we charge them for it? We've been wasting so many billions to corruption, and we cannot give that out?)
Duterte, a populist leader, made these remarks on the same day that survey firm Pulse Asia said his performance rating rose to 91% despite his handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Experts interviewed by Rappler cited the government's cash subsidy program as the main reason for the public's favorable view of Duterte during the pandemic. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.