Tugade wants single payment card for all modes of transportation by Dec.

TRANSPORTATION Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said Monday he wants a “single” reloadable payment card that can be used for all modes of transportation by December.

AF Payments, Inc., the company behind the smart card for fare payments, which carries the Beep brand, said separately it will be issuing 125,000 free cards to commuters, after rejecting Mr. Tugade’s appeal to waive the cost of such cards. The Transportation department has ordered the suspension of the mandatory use of Beep cards at the EDSA Busway system starting Monday because of AF Payments’ decision.

AF Payments is a consortium of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and Ayala Corp. that provides contactless payment solutions.

In a televised interview, Mr. Tugade said the country needs more firms that can offer reloadable smart cards for all modes of transportation to discourage monopolies.

“As much as possible, I’d like to open it, welcome multiple players… para nang sa ganun walang may kontrolado at para nang sa ganun, ang option kung anong card na gagamitin ay nasa pasahero (so no single group controls the card and commuters have options),” Mr. Tugade said.

He added that he wants a single card that is usable for all modes of transportation by December.

Kung ako masusunod (If I get my way) end of the year,” he said.

“‘Yung sa tren may Beep card ngayon. ‘Yung sa ports inumpisahan na namin ‘yung electronic ticketing. Nandito tayo ngayon sa road transportation. Lahat ‘yan ay pagtutugmain namin at gagawin naming interoperable, para iisang card. Nasa plano na po namin ‘yan bago pa man magkaroon ng pandemya (Trains accept Beep cards, and we have started implementing the system in ports. Now we’re trying road transport. The card has to be interoperable so commuters can use one card. That was what we were planning before the pandemic),” Mr. Tugade said.

In a statement, AF Payments reiterated its commitment to provide a modern automated fare collection system for all modes of transportation.

“We continue to work with the bus transport operators to further improve the implementation of the cashless system,” it said.

It added that the P80 it charged each Beep card recently “covers only part of the cost of logistics, production, initialization, printing and distribution.”

“For the next 12 months, even if card sales continue at P80, AF Payments will not make any profit and will actually subsidize the operation of the automated fare collection system. In this challenging economic situation, we will continue supporting bus and jeepney operators to restore mass transport that is needed by our citizens and the economy,” the company said.

In its statement Sunday, the Transportation department said: “We are saddened by the refusal of AF Payments, 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.”

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. — Arjay L. Balinbin

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