Refund P80 Beep card purchase fee, DOTr urged

A labor group urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) Friday to immediately refund the purchase fee charged to commuters for buying new Beep cards when the cashless payment policy on EDSA Busway took effect recently.

In a statement, Defend Jobs Philippines said DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade should refund the P80 purchase fee for the stored value cards as well as scrap the P5 convenience charge for third-party service providers for reloads and the P65 maintaining balance policy.

"This money-making scheme of the DOTr and AF Payments Inc. (AFPI), the private firm that operates the automatic fare collection systems, were clearly sucking the blood of our working people to drain," Christian Lloyd Magsoy, spokersperson of Defend Jobs Philippines, said.

"Instead of aiding our workers and people in providing affordable and accessible mass public transportation system for them, the government has long been treating the transport sector as milking cow to generate more profit than serving its purpose as a social service," he added.

According to Magsoy, the cost of the "No Beep card, no ride" policy of the DOTr only adds up to the burden of the riding public, mostly workers who are still reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic.

"Instead of putting their income directly to the needs of their relatives especially that most of them have just returned to their work, our workers have been forced to pay for exorbitant fees and charges, which could have been utilized for food, education, and health expenses of their families," Magsoy emphasized.

Tugade has directed AF Payments Inc., a consortium of Ayala Group and First Pacific Group which operates the Beep payment system, to distribute the card to commuters for free upon fare load payment.

"The card should be free. We are still under quarantine measures. Workers who have just returned to work are the main users of the rail system and the EDSA Busway," Tugade said.

The cashless transaction system was fully implemented by the DOTr on passenger buses using the EDSA Busway System on Oct. 1 as an added safety measures to further curb the spread of the virus through limited handling of cash between passengers and conductors.

Passengers will have to purchase the Beep card, which is valid for four years, where the fare will be deducted upon tapping at its fare collection machine to provide easier, modern, and more convenient ways of paying for the ride.

This system is also being used in Metro Manila’s major railways such as the LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3, as well as some point-to-point buses and modern jeepneys across the country.