DOTr suspends mandatory use of Beep cards in EDSA Busway

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 4) — The Department of Transportation has suspended the mandatory use of stored value cards or "Beep" cards in EDSA Busway starting Monday, October 5, until further notice.

The announcement on Sunday came after the refusal of Beep card service provider AF Payments, Inc. (AFPI) to immediately do away with the ₱80 cost of the card on top of the fare load.

"We are saddened by the refusal of AF Payments, waive the cost of the beep card despite consistent pleas made by the government," the DOTr said in a statement. "This would have made a big difference to the commuters, mostly daily wage earners who are the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic."

It said the mandatory use of the cards shall be suspended until the "issue is resolved."

The agency said a dual payment system will be temporarily observed for EDSA Busway passengers. Those who already have existing Beep cards may still use them, but cash payments will also be accepted by personnel from the EDSA Bus Consortia at the stations.

Earlier on Sunday, Vice President Leni Robredo said the government could essentially shoulder the payment of Beep cards and their initial fare load to ease the burden on commuters, especially those severely affected by the pandemic.

"Yung mga indigent dapat binigyan na lang ng Beep card, initial load ng ₱100 para sa susunod ikaw na lang maglo-load at napapag-ipunan."

[Translation: Indigents should have received the Beep cards for free, along with an initial load of ₱100 so that the next time, they would have enough savings to load it themselves.]

Commuters earlier criticized the DOTr's "no Beep card, no ride policy" due to the lack of proper information dissemination ahead of its implementation.

According to Robredo, had the commuters been informed earlier on about the new policy, they would've had ample time to prepare for the additional transportation cost.

"Tulungan na lang natin, kasi ₱80 'yung per sasakay. Ang problema kasi natin kung hindi informed, maraming kababayan na sakto lang 'yung dala. Ang iba, pinaghihirapan pa para magkaoon ng pamasahe pang araw araw," she said.

[Translation: Let's just help them, because each passenger would need to pay ₱80. The problem is if they were not informed, they would only have the exact fare with them. Others have a more difficult time budgeting their daily fare.]

The Beep card is the current tool being used in the automatic fare collection system in the EDSA Busway.

Last week, the AFPI, a joint venture of the Ayala and First Pacific groups, defended its collection system and claimed it does not profit from the fees from each Beep card. It also said the cost of the Beep cards have already been reduced from August 1 to September 30 to help out pandemic-hit operators.

Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran said Sunday that the contract for the use of Beep cards was made between the public utility vehicle operators and the AFPI, adding that the DOTr was not involved in the agreement.

The EDSA Bus Consortia will look for another service provider "who can offer a better solution" to the problem. A meeting with other service providers will also be held on Tuesday morning, the DOTr said.