POSTSCRIPT / October 6, 2020 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Buses accepting cash again. They should!

PASSENGERS may again pay in cash for their fares in the EDSA Busway, or use Beep cards if they still have or prefer them, with the suspension yesterday of the exclusive use of electronic payment cards.

We propose that this dual cash/card payment scheme — used while the search is on for a Solomonic compromise — be adopted permanently, if only because rejecting cash payment would be impractical, unfair, and legally challenged.

As we’ve said before, the Philippine peso, which is legal tender, must be accepted as payment for all peso-denominated monetary obligations, including the fare on such public conveyances as buses, jeepneys, taxicabs, and trains.

The Department of Transportation and the Land Transportation Franchise Regulatory Board said the interim return to the dual scheme will give all parties concerned time to sort out the confusion spawned by the rejection by bus operators of cash payments.

The DoTr and the LTFRB said off-board cash payments will be collected by personnel from the EDSA Bus Consortia at the stations. The personnel wear face shields, face masks, and gloves to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

The agencies said: “We are saddened by the refusal of AF Payments Inc., the provider of the automatic fare collection system (AFCS) at the EDSA Busway, to waive the cost of the Beep card despite consistent pleas made by the government. This would have made a big difference to the commuters, mostly daily wage earners who are the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Some passengers have complained that they had to pay P30-50 extra (sometimes P100?) just for the card — on top of the peso value loaded in the card from which the bus fare is deducted.

The EDSA Bus Consortia is scheduled to meet today with other AFCS providers wanting to offer a better scheme. We hope the solution will consider that there will always be passengers with no immediate choice but to pay in cash.

A basic question is: Why is a passenger not allowed to pay in cash when the peso is legal tender in this country for paying debts and monetary obligations, private or public?

That the COVID virus is still around is insufficient argument for rejecting cash, because that is a temporary situation that can be avoided in many other ways.

In some countries, buses have a see-through box beside the driver near the front door where the exact amount can be dropped through a hole or slit if the passenger has no card. The cash is inserted in the box, with the tacit agreement that no change is available.

There will always be bus passengers who, for some reason, will not have a ready Beep card but have cash for the fare. Why should not their peso, which is legal tender, be accepted?

The same “Exact fare only-No change” rule can be adopted on jeepneys to minimize handling of paper money or coins. Payment can be dropped, honor system, into a transparent collection box.

 Tokyo & Kobe lots, to sell or not?

SOMETIMES we wonder if one of the tasks of Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. is to release trial balloons for important but potentially controversial actions that President Duterte wants to take.

We have seen how the secretary had made early statements, some on Twitter, that turned out to be against or not in total conformity with the President’s emerging position. But in those situations, Locsin ended up toeing the final Duterte line.

The latest balloon is Locsin’s strong objection to a supposed plot to sell valuable Philippine real property in Japan. (But we agree with Locsin that the government should not sell those properties in Tokyo and Kobe, while there are other disposable assets in the Philippines.)

Eyed for possible sale are the 3,179-square meter Philippine property on 306 Roppongi St. 5-Chome Minato-ku in Tokyo; the 2,489.96-sqm Nampeidai property at 11-24 Nampeidai-machi, Shibuya-ku, also in Tokyo; the 764.72 sqm commercial property at 63 Naniwa-cho in Kobe; and the residential property at 1-980-2 Obanoyama-cho, Shinohara, Nada-ku, Kobe.

The Tokyo and Kobe assets were part of the post-World War II payments made by Japan under a war reparations agreement in May 1956.

Ruling against past attempts to sell them, the Supreme Court had said the assets were deemed of symbolic value to all Filipinos, and could be sold only with the President and the Congress concurring.

The SC recalled that “the four properties and the capital goods and services procured from the Japanese government for national development projects are part of the indemnification to the Filipino people for their losses in life and property and their suffering during World War II.”

Justifying his intent to sell them, President Duterte said the government needs money to prevent the corruption-wracked Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) from going bankrupt. Several of its officials are facing corruption charges.

Duterte said Monday in a televised statement: “That is the reason why we are selling properties, real estate properties in Japan, because we have to raise money.

Wala nang pambayad ’yang sa PhilHealth na ’yan… Kaya walang ibang remedy diyan. It must be a surgical move… Kung hindi, paalisin ko sana itong mga Civil-Civil Service (There won’t be cash for PhilHealth to pay… There is no other remedy but a surgical move. Otherwise, I will remove these Civil Service).”

Earlier, Locsin disclosed a supposed plot to use the proceeds from the proposed sale as a “retirement fund of last resort” for some government officials “who’ve run through the budgets of their own agencies.”

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City) said the SC had ruled that the Roppongi property is correctly classified under the Civil Code as properly belonging to the state and intended for some public service. He filed a resolution calling on Malacañang to drop its plan to sell.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 6, 2020)

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Dear Sir Pascual, In the 6th paragraph where the agencies were purportedly responded with "We are SADDENED [emphasis mine] by the refusal of AF Payments, Inc...", if this is true then whoever wrote/spoke that statement is a wimp and should be FIRED! You are the government and cash is legal tender, CHARGE THEM for refusing legal tender. Is AF Payments above the law?


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