President Rodrigo Duterte is not in favor of beep cards being sold to passengers at EDSA Busway as it only adds to the burden of people who are already suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said on Monday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque issued the statement after the Department of Transportation suspended the mandatory use of Beep cards at the EDSA Busway starting Oct. 5 after Beep card service provider AF Payments Inc. refused to waive the P80 cost of the cards on top of the fare load.
Roque said the President is against the system and felt bad for the people who had to spend more just to get these cards. ”The President was against the charges for the Beep card,” Roque said.
He added that the President sympathizes with our countrymen who were surprised because their money was only enough for fare and food for that day.
Thousands of passengers criticized the sudden implementation of cashless payments in buses where fare cards or beep cards were sold for P180, or P100 for the card with an P80 load.
Because of the mounting complaints, the DOTr suspended the mandatory use of beep cards and instead directed the passengers to ride the buses through cash payment.
The suspension of the use of beep card, according to Roque, is proof that the government is listening and this administration has a heart,
Roque said the DOTr is studying the matter and noted that the suspension of its mandatory use would be “enough” for now.
Over at the House of Representatives, Committee on Transportation chairman Rep, Edgar Mary Sarmiento urged the DOTr to adopt the use of Quick Response codes (QR Code) in lieu of beep cards to avoid long lines for bus carousel and train commuters.
Samar Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento, the panel's chairperson, said the use of QR codes can even be standardized as a mode of payment for all forms of public transportation if beep cards are unavailable.
“Going cashless in our public transportation is the way to go. QR Codes and Beep cards is the future of Philippine public transportation,” Sarmiento said.
He said the DoTr can create its own fare reloading application using various forms of electronic wallets and various electronic banking platforms or they can tap the private sector to do this for them.
This would stop people from spending too much time in queuing to get their cards and reduce human-to-human interaction which could expose them to the corona virus.
Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo echoed Sarmiento's suggestion, as she urged the DOTr still pursue its contactless fare payment system in the future but without cost to commuters.
Castelo said she supports the use of a cashless and contactless fare or toll payment system “with or without a pandemic.” “The goal in times like this is obvious: the scheme lessens the risk of transmission of the infectious virus and the disease it is causing. In normal times, it speeds up mobility,” she said.
Sarmiento also lauded Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade for heeding calls to suspend the use of beep cards but the best alternative is to upgrade the system and allow the use of QR Codes and mobile apps that can be reloaded online or through reloading kiosks.
He added that the DoTr could create its own fare reloading app using various forms of electronic wallets and various electronic banking as this is also more cost-effective and environment-friendly because there is no longer a need to mass produce these plastic cards.
Sarmiento noted that if the use of QR codes are used as an alternative to the beep cards, the government would no longer need to subsidize the production cost of these cards.
“Giving away these free beep cards is simply unsustainable because who would spend to mass manufacture these beep cards. Sooner or later, our commuters would have to pay for these beep cards because the production is not free,” Sarmiento said.
Meanwhile, Castelo called for the return of the P80-cost of the Beep card thousands of commuters have paid.
“Now that the DOTr has suspended the use of the card and ordered the acceptance of cash payment for fares, commuters should be refunded the P80 they paid for the card,” said Castelo, vice chair of the House committee on Metro Manila Development.
She said if the service provider is hesitant or unwilling to return the money, the DOTr should compel it.
“Assuming they have sold one million Beep cards, that’s P80 million belonging to salaried workers and poor people,” she said, citing news reports that there are about seven million such cards in circulation.
“They should have provided those cards for free in the first place. If expressway operators in north and south Luzon could give those cards free of charge to motorists, the same service should be offered without cost to commuters in Metro Manila,” she said.
Sarmiento said data scanners and readers can already read not just the data stored on machine-readable cards but also data stored on QR codes.
The House transportation panel chair said that the use of QR codes and going cashless in using public transport should be the policy direction of the government even after the corona virus has been fully contained because this would definitely make them more efficient and manageable.
Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Monday called on the DOTr to increase the ridership capacity in public transportation to 70 percent, as the limited capacity on public transportation is taking a toll on workers.
“Employees would like to report to work but there are no rides available. We are also requesting to allow more people inside public transportation, an increase in ridership of (up to) 70 percent,” said Bello in a radio interview.
While many workers have resorted to biking as an alternative mode of transport, ridership capacity in public transportation remains limited due to the "one-meter" physical distancing policy implemented by the government.
This came as President Duterte decided to maintain the policy following a clamor from various sectors that decreased physical distancing in public transport may result in further transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Bello, meanwhile, welcomed the move of the Department of Trade and Industry to allow some business establishments to operate up to 100 percent capacity.
“This is a big thing for our workers. We are for the proposal of (Trade) Secretary Ramon Lopez. I will support that. The most affected here are the workers, they have no jobs in the past months,” he said.
In Memorandum Circular 20-52 issued last week, the DTI allowed businesses listed under Categories II and III in areas under general community quarantine to operate at full capacity starting October 3, as part of measures to gradually revive the economy.
These businesses are mining and quarrying; other financial services such as money exchange, insurance, reinsurance, lending companies, and non-compulsory pension funding; legal and accounting; management consultancy activities; architecture and engineering activities; technical testing and analysis; scientific and research development; and advertising and market research.
Also allowed to operate at full capacity are businesses engaged in computer programming, publishing and printing services, as well as film, music, and TV production.
Other business activities that may hike their current operational capacity are recruitment and placement agencies for overseas employment; photography services for fashion, industrial, graphic, and interior design; wholesale and retail trade of motor vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles, including their parts and components; and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles, including vulcanizing shops, battery repair shops, auto repair shops, and car wash.
Subject to pertinent guidelines issued by the DTI, the MC also include malls and commercial centers for non-leisure business activities and mall-based non-leisure wholesale and retail establishments such as hardware stores; clothing and accessories; bookstore and school and office supplies stores; infant care supplies; pet shops, pet food, and pet care supplies; IT, communications, and electronic equipment; flower, jewelry, novelty, antique, and perfume shops; toy stores, but playgrounds and amusement area must remain closed; music stores; art galleries, but for selling purposes only; and firearms and ammunition trading establishments.
Public and private construction projects may also operate at full capacity.
Barbershops and salons are likewise allowed to increase their capacity but only up to 75 percent, and physical distancing should be strictly observed. Food establishments’ dine-in, take-out, and delivery services are also allowed to operate up to 24 hours. With PNA