TO ENSURE that the operation of public transportation will not be hampered as the country slowly eases restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has adopted the service contracting scheme of public utility vehicles (PUVs).
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) made the announcement on Monday, Sept. 14, 2020.
According to an IATF resolution dated Sept. 7, service contracting is designed to subsidize public transport operations, incentivize PUV operators to return and serve commuters and restore the livelihood of displaced transport workers, among others.
In the Facebook post of the DOTr, Assistant Secretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Steve Pastor said the proposed measure was developed in response to the financial constraints that PUV operators and drivers have experienced due to health and sanitary protocols implemented in public transport.
Pastor said that due to the limitations imposed, operators and drivers “may not be able to sustain their operations.”
He said this might lead to inconsistent travel trips, causing commuters to compete for rides, while drivers and operators disregard passenger capacity in exchange for more revenue.
“The concerned agencies in the transport sector are adamant that safety should not be foregone as we push for economic recovery and mobility of services. Thus, we are pushing for the use of service contracting as these would allow for efficiency of travel and the reduction of transmission,” he said.
In the proposed scheme, the government will pay operators and drivers of public transportation units based on vehicle-kilometers travelled and specific performance indicators.
To ensure safety, public utility jeepneys (PUJs) and public utility buses (PUBs) are required to follow the 50 percent passenger capacity and other safety and health protocols such as wearing of face masks and face shields.
PUJs and PUBs will also have to operate within a set of working hours. A back-up unit should be provided in case of vehicle breakdown.
The contracted drivers and operators are also required to possess a professional driver’s license and must be driving a service unit confirmed by an operator.
The contracted drivers must also pass the roadworthiness standards of the Land Transportation Office and must not have been involved in any road crash incident in the last two years.
Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) 7 Director Eduardo Montealto said the LTFRB has yet to determine how to pay the drivers and operators.
He said guidelines will be sent to regional offices in the form of memorandum circulars.
SunStar Cebu tried to get the reaction of transport group Piston, to no avail. (JJL)