Activists denounce Beep card fee increase
SAN PABLO, Laguna—Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) denounced the increase in the price of automated fare collection system (AFCS) cards used in Metro Manila trains, buses and jeepneys now costing P30.00 from the previous P20.00.
Following the new year announcement of the increase, each new card costing P100 automatically charges P30, leaving the consumer with only P70 credit.
“This is an automatic fee increase that did not go through any public hearing. There is also no explanation in the contract why the private concessionaire is entitled to a fee increase,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.
The fee increase is included in the current contract between the government and the private consortium AF Payments Inc. of the Ayala and Metro Pacific groups.
“It is simply a profit guarantee for private interests. This is an onerous provision in the contract and goes against public policy,” Reyes said, blaming the previous Department of Transportation and Communication for the deal and the current Department of Transportation (DoTr) for its failure to review this provision of the contract.
Reyes said their alliance of progressive groups will ask the DoTr to say for the record if the private concessionaire has paid the government the P800 million transaction fee that it is supposed to pay.
He revealed that in the private consortium’s current bid offer, it pays government only P278 million as gross availability payment, instead of a one-time P1 billion concession fee.
“The private concessionaires will pay government P865 million only when beep card transactional volume reaches 750 million per quarter, a very high standard,” Reyes explained.
The activist leader believes that such a high transaction volume can only be reached towards the ninth or 10th year of the contract.
“If so, this means that the private concessionaires have been profiting from the Beep card business even without paying the government any concession fee. This is another onerous provision in the contract,” he added.
Right off the AFCS contract’s implementation in October 2015, Reyes questioned its four-year renewal clause, asking “Why are the beep cards for MRT and LRT valid only up to December 2019? Because the AFCS private concessionaire plans to issue more expensive Beep cards by 2020.”
“By 2020, fares would have also gone up. Your P100 minimum card purchase may only be good for two rides,” Reyes claimed then.
Reyes asks the Rodrigo Duterte government through the Department of Justice to look into the AFCS contract, charging it is lopsided in favor of big businesses and disadvantageous to commuters. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)