DOTr to suspend Beep card use in EDSA bus system if P80-fee not dropped

Faced with criticism over its "no Beep card, no ride policy," the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Saturday, October 3, reiterated its call for service provider AF Payments Incorporated (AFPI ) not to charge commuters for the cost of the card.

DOTr warned that it will suspend the automatic fare collection system in the EDSA Busway if AFPI, the service provider of the Beep cards, will not remove the P80-payment for the card, which is on top of the fare load.

The DOTr called on AFPI to remove the service fee and other charges that make up for the cost of the card, which it said was an additional burden for passengers. 

“These are the ordinary commuters who are still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 and the strictly enforced community quarantines in their livelihood. Thus, they should be spared from this additional burden,” the DOTr said.

“Should the AFPI refuse to cooperate by allowing the free use of the beep card to commuters upon payment of the fare load, the DOTr will have [to] suspend its use in the EDSA Busway to alleviate the burden of commuters,” it added.

The agency implemented the “no Beep card, no ride policy” on Thursday, October 1, in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 among commuters. The beep cards being offered at bus stations cost P180 – P80 for the cost of the card alone.

Several senators and various advocacy groups earlier raised concerns over the policy and urged the DOTr to refund the charge fee, permanently waive the convenience charge for third-party services, and nullify the maintaining balance.

In a statement on Friday, October 2, AFPI addressed the concerns and said the company gets “zero profit” from the fees they get from each Beep card. The company said the Beep cards were “still partially subsidized, as the full cost upon turnover to the buyer is more than P80.”

The company added that the cost of the Beep cards was already reduced from August 1 to September 30 to help out operators affected by the pandemic. AFPI is a joint venture of the Ayala and First Pacific groups.

Still, the DOTr called on AFPI to “view the card cost fee as part of  their corporate social responsibility to help its clients endure the result of the pandemic.”

The agency said that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is set to issue a memorandum circular by next week, which will direct all public utility vehicle (PUV) operators not to pass the cost of any cashless payment system to commuters.

"There are other AFCS providers and other modes of cashless transactions that PUV operators may tap," DOTr said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto earlier suggested that the government or the private issuer, AF Payments, give commuters the Beep cards for free. At P80 per card, Recto had said it would only cost the government P40 million to give it for free to 500,000 commuters – the daily bus ridership on EDSA, the main thoroughfare of Metro Manila. – Rappler.com