DOTr told: Explain shortage of Beep cards on rail lines

DOTr told: Explain shortage of Beep cards on rail lines
In an interview with “The Chiefs” on Friday night, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said that he directed the managements of LRT and MRT-3 to study the possibility of giving discounts to passengers using the Beep card.

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation should explain the scarcity of stored value Beep cards along Metro Manila's rail lines despite the sale of more expensive cards in online shopping platforms, a senator said Thursday.

This comes after AF Payments Inc., a consortium between the Ayala Group and the First Pacific Group, informed the DOTr in August that it would not be able to deliver the 75,000 stored-value cards needed by the Metro Rail Transit-Line 3 for its July demand, saying it placed multiple orders with card makers abroad, only to be denied delivery due to a global supply crunch for chips.

In a statement, Sen. Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Services, urged the department to issue a statement because the shortage of cards "burdens our people using trains."

"The time spent lining up for every single-journey ticket is a moment wasted for our already weary commuters. The department should also shed light on reports that many have resorted to buying the cards online at a steeper price," the senator said. 

"The lack of Beep cards is a step backward to our goal to digitalize our transportation payment scheme as a safer and more convenient mode."

The stored-value cards cost P188 in AFPI’s official online stores in online shopping platforms Lazada and Shopee, excluding shipping fees. If bought from a rail station, the card's price is P100 with a P70 load balance. 

But amid rising prices, commuters may soon feel the sting of having to use single-journey tickets instead of their usual Beep cards. 

At the LRT-1 in Manila, single-journey fares set them back P15 to P30 while stored-value rates go from P12 to P29. And at the LRT-2 in Quezon City, single-journey fares cost anywhere between P15 to P30, but Beep cards only charge P12 to P28.

"We have allocated billions for the development and modernization of our railways system. Our people must feel the fruits of their hard-earned taxes," Poe said. 

Earlier, digital advocacy group Digital Pinoys also said that the government's dealings with AF Payments Inc. should be scrapped for profiteering from the supply shortage of the Beep cards in MRT stations.

"AFPI is taking the commuters and the government for a ride here. They may have been manufacturing the shortage for all we know. They should have first ensured that the supplies in MRT stations are sufficient before selling in online shopping platforms," their convenor, Ronald Gustilo said. 

"AFPI really have the gall to sell much more expensive Beep cards while MRT passengers are experiencing difficulty in purchasing Beep cards in stations? They said the supply is not enough, how come they are able sell it in their stores in online shopping platforms for a much higher price?" 

The DOTr has yet to respond to requests for comment on the senator's statement. This story will be updated with their response. — Franco Luna

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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