DOTr warns of ‘beep’ card shortage  

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) yesterday directed rail line officials to come up with alternatives in addressing the impending shortage of stored-value or “beep” cards in the face of a projected rise in demand.

AF Payments Inc., a consortium between the Ayala Group and the First Pacific Group, informed the DOTr that it will fail to deliver the 75,000 stored-value cards needed by the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) for its July demand.

AF Payments supplies the beep cards for the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1), LRT-2 and MRT-3. The firm said it placed multiple orders with card makers abroad, only to be denied delivery due to a global supply crunch for chips.

The DOTr expects the demand for beep cards to increase with the resumption of in-person classes across all schools, public and private, on Aug. 22. The agency also projects the demand for beep cards to pick up as employers mandate their workers to return to office.

The DOTr asked rail managers to look for alternative ways to fill the supply gap, including the option of maximizing single-journey tickets.

However, commuters reeling from the impact of climbing inflation may find this impractical given the fare difference between using single-journey and stored-value cards.

At the LRT-1, single-journey fares range from P15 to P30 whereas stored-value rates go from P12 to P29. At the LRT-2, single-journey fares stretch from P15 to P30, but stored-value rates are from P12 to P28.

In a letter to the rail managers, the DOTr said the looming beep card shortage results from the limited access to special gases from Russia needed to make NXP chips.

The agency also blamed the shipping slowdown worldwide as a consequence of China locking down some of its ports due to COVID-19 infection spikes.

Last week, JP Morgan said the global chip shortage was initially caused by the pandemic after it forced manufacturing hubs, particularly China, to stop production. Afterward, the general shift to digital transactions drove the demand for chips, especially by automation firms, the firm said.

Although JP Morgan anticipates that the global chip crunch would end soon, it admitted that the current supply will fall short of providing for everyone’s needs.

“More chips will become available in the second half of the year and the shortage is nearing its end, (but) available chips may not be the right type to satisfy all demand,” JP Morgan said.


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