Controversy with the MRT Beep Card?

The reason we have this today…

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… is because Sec. Mar, then DOTC Secretary, studied the replacement of the old magnetic-stripe tickets and pushed for the “Beep” system.

He wanted to enhance the economic value of a card that would be in the wallets of at least one million passengers every day.

What does this mean?

  • The commonsensical use of just one card instead of three.
  • One reloadable card to be used in all three train systems.
  • One reusable card instead of three frequently replaced cards would be efficient to curb administrative costs.

As a result?

  1. There is now a single ticketing system when before there were three.
  2. There is now the capacity to load up to P10,000.00 in each card rather than the maximum of just P100.00.
  3. This means that he has found a way to lessen lines, long after his term as DOTC Secretary.

And this all happening now. The beep system started on October 2015.

How much did this cost?

Well, this is one instance of a private-public partnership (PPP) project. What does this mean?

The cost of implementing this entire project? P1.72 billion.

But who gets the opportunity to implement the project?  There was a bidding process – because all transparent and clean transactions in the government should have one. And one bidder wanted to pay the government a certain sum just so that it could be the one to implement the project. The winning bidder, aside from planning to spend P1.72 to implement the project, also promised to pay (or has already paid) P1.088 billion just so that it could be the one chosen.

Essentially, the government gained P2.8 billion from the transaction:

How much did the government spend? Not a cent.

How much does the private firm get out this? P20 per card.

Is this a controversial issue?

A Philstar columnist pointed out that:

Unknown to the more than half-million Metro Rail Transit daily riders, the beep cards they use to board trains could have been given to them at no cost under a proposal in 2012 of then MRT-3 General Manager Al Vitangcol III.

Vitangcol x x x is now facing graft charges arising from anomalies in the MRT system blamed on him and several others.

In July of 2012, Vitangcol proposed in a letter to Roxas a “Pilot Contactless Automatic Fare Collection” system “to cushion the impact of the coming ‘death’ of the AFC system” and said that “efforts were done to engage a proponent… to supply a Contactless AFC System, all at no cost to the government and to the riding public.

x x x Why did the DOTC reject a proposal allowing the riding public, especially poor commuters and students, to save P20 for the beep card? Instead, the P30-million (1.5 million cards x P20/card) add-on cost has been fed to the maws of the giant Ayala firm.

What this columnist conveniently forgot to explain was the justification of the government for refusing this “free” Vitangcol project:

First of all, the Vitangcol project only covered MRT.  The government wanted to shift to single ticketing for LRT and MRT to lessen the burden of queuing twice for passengers that were transferring between lines.

Secondly, the government (and the people) should prefer competitive bidding rather than “free proposals”. The “free proposals” usually tie up the government to a certain supplier. In this case, not only did the government get the project for free (because it was implemented by a private party through PPP), it also got a premium!

Is P20 per card, to be paid for by the riding public, justifiable in light of:

  1. The convenience of transferring train lines with just one card?
  2. The following of rules and being transparent?
  3. The prevention of corrupt practices to take place?

Any thinking person would say so.

When the government is able to do things of this nature, it does not get credit. But it soldiers on anyway because it knows it’s doing the right thing for an entire nation rather than for a select group of opportunists.

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2 thoughts on “Controversy with the MRT Beep Card?”

  1. There were TWO bidders that gave a positive bid. The winning bidder won by around 100k (coincidence? right.) more, despite being a 10(?) year outlay, whereas the losing bidder was going to give the amount as an outright sum.

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