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LTFRB orders operators, fare collectors: Remove card fees

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
LTFRB orders operators, fare collectors: Remove card fees
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 (Updated 2:27 p.m.) — The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board on Wednesday ordered public utility vehicle operators and automatic fare collection system providers to waive charges for purchasing or replenishing cards, it announced Wednesday. 

This is the latest development since the Department of Transportation 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.

The service provider has said that the cards, sold at P80, are at zero profit and are already partially subsidized. It has also announced that it would give away 125,000 cards for free.

According to DOTr Memorandum Circular 2020-057 entitled "Removal of Fees of AFCS Cards Charged to Commuters Apart from Fare Load" and dated October 6, the transportation department called on PUV operators and AFCS to remove additional costs exclusive of fare load. 

"This board deems it necessary to order public utility vehicle operators and/or automatic fare collection systems providers to remove the coast of the card, on top of the fare load...to alleviate the burden of the riding public," the document reads. 

"Failure of the concerned operator and/or provider to comply with this issuance shall cause for the immediate suspension of the automatic fare collection system, aside from the penalties to be imposed pursuant to existing issuances of this board against the operators concerned," it also says. 

The memorandum circular will cover all road-based PUVs, the board said in a text message to reporters, and will be effective beginning October 9. 

Transportation spokesperson Goddes Libiran reiterated the department's position that it would be automatic fare collection system providers, saying: "We will discuss their offer in due time, but to date, the no beep card no ride policy is still suspended in the EDSA Busway. A dual payment system will still be honored."

"We are opening our doors to other AFCS providers who can provide a better solution. We are open to the idea of having multiple service providers, as long as their systems are ready for integration and interoperability, and no fee shall be charged to commuters for the purchase/use of their system," she also said.

Around 500,000 commuters make use of the buses plying EDSA, Metro Manila's main thoroughfare.

The recently implemented "No Beep card, no entry" policy, the department said earlier, was meant to lower the risk of coronavirus transmission, though the government and the company failed to reach an agreement on the proposal to give the cards to commuters for free, which President Rodrigo Duterte called for in his public address 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.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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