Regional Updates (10/04/20)

DoTr suspends mandatory use of Beep cards for EDSA bus system

THE DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoTr) has suspended the mandatory use of electronic cards for fare payments on the EDSA bus system starting October 5 after the provider declined to waive the fee for the card itself. Effective Monday, commuters will again have the option to pay in cash through collection points at the bus stations or use the beep card system. “We are saddened by the refusal of AF Payments, Inc., the provider of the automatic fare collection system at the EDSA Busway, to waive the cost of the beep card despite consistent pleas made by the government,” DoTr said in a statement on Sunday, “This would have made a big difference to the commuters, mostly daily wage earners who are the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.” DoTr started to implement the “no Beep card, no ride” policy on Oct. 1, but it drew flak from commuters who complained of the initial cash out of P180, covering P80 for the card itself and a P100 load value. AF Payments, composed of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and Ayala Corp., last week said it is collecting the card fee “at cost.” DoTr said the EDSA Bus consortia “will look for another” system provider “who can offer a better solution to the existing problem,” with meetings set on Tuesday. Prior to the DoTr announcement, a lawmaker filed a resolution calling for a policy that will waive both the card fee and required maintaining balance. In House Resolution No. 1272, Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Precious H. Castelo said that while the intent to shift to cashless transactions is laudable, “the cost of one Beep card is too much for the minimum wage earners who often have only the exact fare for the day for their daily commute.” MPIC is one of three Philippine subsidiaries of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining Corp. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., maintains an interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group. — with a report from Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Solo parents in Pasig to get expanded benefits

THE PASIG City council has passed an ordinance outlining a package of social development and welfare services for solo parents and their children, in line with Republic Act No. 8972, the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2020. Ordinance No. 43 s. 2020 localizes the national law that provides special benefits to a person, either a birth parent or carer, who solely provides the parental duties to a child or children. Among the benefits for Pasig solo parents are special discounts on hospital bills, medicine, cash gifts, and other privileges during Christmas, and educational scholarship grants to their children. The ordinance orders business establishments in Pasig City to provide flexible work schedules and parental leave for solo parents. Solo parents and their children will also be prioritized in scholarship programs and admission to local schools such as the Pasig City Institute of Science and Technology and Pasig City Science High School. Qualified beneficiaries are those with children 18 years old and below. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

Apo Agua doubling workforce to 4,500 to finish bulk water supply project by 2021

ABOITIZ-LED APO AGUA Infrastructura, Inc. (AAII) is aiming to have 4,500 workers by the end of the year to meet the 2021 target completion date of its bulk water supply project in Davao City. “That is doubling the manpower commitment just to make sure that we can finish the project,” Shake A. Tuason, AAII operations head, told Businessworld. Before the quarantine restrictions imposed starting mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak, the company was starting to install pipes for the treated water facilities with nearly 2,200 workers at the peak of construction. Mr. Tuason said they want to double the workforce with 2,300 laborers, 2,000 skilled workers, and 200 welders to catch up with the schedule by implementing the different construction activities simultaneously. “That would take some time finding workers again and because of the protocols we also have to house the workers on site,” Mr. Tuason said. AAII has partnered with the Public Employment Service Offices of local governments to help source the needed workers. “Its all system go for us to deliver the project. Overall, we’re confident but again COVID (coronavirus disease 2019) has wrecked havoc in the entire world and our project was really not spared. We are still assessing the impact of COVID and we are working very hard to finish the project as soon as possible,” Mr. Tuason said. AAII, a joint venture between Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. and JV Angeles Construction Corp., will provide 300 million liters of water per day sourced from the Tamugan River to the Davao City Water District. — Maya M. Padillo

Paranaque extends amnesty on property tax penalties to Dec. 31

PROPERTY OWNERS in Paranaque City with unpaid real estate taxes in the last five years have until Dec. 31 to settle their dues without the corresponding surcharges and penalties. The city council passed Ordinance 2020-21, published on Sunday, extending the amnesty period that was originally set January-March 2020 under Ordinance 19-32. The condonation program does not cover properties sold at public auction, subject to expropriation, or under a compromise agreement relating to other ordinances.

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