'DOTr open to other automatic fare collection system providers'

'DOTr open to other automatic fare collection system providers'
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade urged AF Payments Inc., a consortium of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and Ayala Corp., to give Beep cards to commuters once they buy load, even with the minimum amount they need.
Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The transportation department is open to hearing out the proposals from other automatic fare collection system providers amid unresolved disagreements with its current operator, it said Tuesday. 

This comes as the latest development after the department suspended the mandatory use of beep cards at the EDSA Busway after AF Payments Inc.—the operator of the Beep card used for carousel buses along EDSA—refused to waive the cost of the beep card, which drew criticism after passengers were required to buy cards worth P180 before they could avail of a bus ride.  

According to transportation spokesperson Goddes Libiran, any possible providers should be ready to integrate with others should the platform be opened up.

"[Secretary Tugade] means other automatic fare collection system providers. Sec. Tugade does not want a monopoly. We are studying the possibility of opening up the AFCS platform to all providers who are interested in offering better solutions, but their systems should be open and ready for integration and interoperability. Sec. Tugade also noted that charges in operating the system must not be shouldered by commuters," Libiran said in a text message to reporters. 

Asked about the offer of AF Payments to give away 125,000 free cards to “people in need," Libiran said: "We note their offer. But we will decide on this in due time. But as of now, the no Beep card no ride policy is still suspended. We open our doors to other providers."

The No Beep Card, No Entry policy was implemented, the department said, to further decrease the possible spread of the coronavirus, though the government and the company have so far failed to reach an agreement on the proposal to give the cards to commuters for free, which President Rodrigo Duterte again called for in his public address late Monday night.

“That’s just a card. Just give it away for free. Why pay for it? We have been wasting so many billions on corruption, and yet you can’t give that away?” the chief executive said then in Filipino.

Earlier Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said in an interview with CNN Philippines that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board was still in talks with the service provider of beep card, with the department pressing its proposal for free cards.

Tugade added that the No Beep Card, No Entry policy should last no less than five days. 

"I don't believe that only one can control the business. I believe in having multiple service providers... just yesterday, many [companies] hinted that they are interested in the program and in our desire to give the beep card for free," Tugade said in a mix of Filipino and English. 

"The question there is, are there only 125,000 beep card users? Because it will be more than 125,000. If they want to offer for free, [then they should] give every user free. That is what they should offer. Now, if I accept the 125,000, our hands might be tied. So I said, we should analyze the proposals. That is why I didn't accept it."

— Franco Luna 

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