The offer of suspended AF Payments Inc. (AFPI) to provide some P10 million worth, or 125,000 free Beep cards to EDSA Busway commuters, in lieu of scrapping the cost of the cards for everyone, was enough to placate the Department of Transportation (DOTr) – for the moment.
But that’s not the end of it.
The state agency refused to simultaneously tackle other issues AFPI raised regarding its five years of freebies to the government and operators of three railway lines.
“We appreciate the plan of AFPI to set aside the prospect of profit for the meantime, to answer the call of need from our commuters and to give them free beep cards until a QR-based electronic ticketing system becomes operational,” according to the DOTr atatement released late last night.
However, “We note that the 2015 public-private partnership program that replaced the old magnetic card-based ticketing system in the three light railway lines in Metro Manila with the beep card is an issue best reserved for discussion at a later date, with the parties involved,” the DOTr hastened to add.
This hints that AFPI can get back at the government for being rebuffed and punished with suspension.
After all, the beep card provider has given five years of freebies and can possibly make both the railway transport agencies and the train operators pick up the overdue tab.
AFPI replaced the old magnetic-card-based ticketing system in the three light railway lines in Metro Manila (LRT 1 and 2 and MRT3) with its contactless-based smart card technology – the Beep Card.
At no cost to the Philippine Government or the train operators, AFPI provided ticket vending machines, automated gates and Central Computer Systems.
Furthermore, AFPI did not charge for the operation and maintenance of the AFCS.
Up to March 2020, AFPI has issued over 7M cards and processed at least 1 million transactions per day.
But for the now, DOTr insists on “first focusing on our goal to make the commuting experience of passengers on the EDSA Busway convenient and affordable, in the light of compassion”.
“We thank AFPI for seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and for considering the plight of our commuters who have just started to rebuild back their lives after a series of strict quarantine measures that put pressure both on their social lives and livelihoods. For them, every centavo counts.”
As for the use of a QR code-based electronic ticketing system on the EDSA Busway, the DOTr pointed out that the system has always been one of its options for cashless transactions.
“In fact, we have considered the use of this long before the outbreak of the pandemic. We believe that this will not be as tedious to implement on the EDSA Busway, as the facilities and the know-how for it is readily available.”
With the use of a smartphone app or by going online, passengers of vessels can now buy virtual tickets.
As this is a contactless technology, commuters are best assured of proper social distancing needed to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.
In the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the use of QR codes as part of the functionalities of its automated ticketing and fare collection should be more than enough to prove that the QR code technology will now form part of the “new normal.”
DOTr believes that the use of QR technology for electronic ticketing on the EDSA Busway remains one viable option for commuters.
“Finally, we also wish to note that the government welcomes proposals from other automatic fare collection system (AFCs) providers, as long as their systems are ready for integration, and will not place additional charge or burden to commuters.”