MANILA (UPDATE) - AF Payments Inc., the operator of the Beep card meant to be used on EDSA buses said it will be issuing 125,000 free cards to “people in need” and will be setting up a QR code ticketing system for cashless payments.
This was after the government suspended the mandatory use of Beep cards on buses following a public outcry over its cost.
AF Payments Inc (AFPI) said the free cards were donated by its shareholders and business groups.
The company also said in response to concerns that the cards were too expensive for some passengers, AFPI offered bus operators a system upgrade that will allow passengers who use the EDSA Bus Loop to use a QR ticket (paper or mobile phone) instead of a beep card.
“QR paper tickets will not cost anything in addition to the regular fare for the desired trip,” AFPI said.
The company however said that it will no longer issue free Beep cards once the QR code ticket system is in place.
“At this time passengers who do not want a beep card can instead avail of a QR ticket, with no additional cost attached and will only require the payment of exact fare between the desired stops.”
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) welcomed AFPI's decision to give out free Beep cards to commuters.
"The Department of Transportation (DOTr) welcomes the decision of AF Payments Inc. (AFPI) to provide 125,000 free Beep cards to EDSA Busway commuters in light of the financial hardships they have to face daily amid the COVID-19 pandemic," it said in a statement.
The agency also thanked the company for considering the plight of commuters.
DOTr has insisted that the Beep cards should be given free.
On Monday, the DOTr implemented a dual payment system for EDSA buses after suspending the mandatory use of Beep cards. Commuters can now pay their fares in cash at bus stations, while those who already have Beep cards can still use them to pay fares.
The government earlier ordered EDSA bus operators to shift to a cashless payment system for fares to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 among passengers.
Use of the Beep cards became mandatory on Oct. 1, with many commuters unaware of the shift to cashless payments, resulting in long lines at many bus stations. Poor commuters also said that they could not afford the P80 cost of the cards.
AFPI meanwhile insisted that the P80 price of each card “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, AFPI will not make any profit and will actually subsidize the operation of the AFCS. 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.
Beep cards are also used in the country’s light railway systems and in some modern jeepneys.
The DOTr said it wants just "one card" for different modes of transportation as part of efforts to go "cashless" amid the pandemic.
Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade said his plan will also have "multiple players" with one "clearing house" so that no company has control and the public may choose which "interoperable" card to use.