To say that Metro Manila’s public transportation is strained as authorities try to combat the spread of COVID-19 is a massive understatement. Yesterday, the first day of general community quarantine in Metro Manila, many commuters were left confused and helpless because of the lack of rides available. There were even reports of individuals walking for kilometers in search of one.
One senator believes that the key to averting a potential transport crisis is to utilize inactive public utility vehicle (PUV) operators and drivers through service contracting.
“Government should immediately tap the private transportation sector and adopt a service contracting scheme so that more public transport becomes available for Filipinos going back to their jobs and businesses,” Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a recent statement.
“The lack of transport options is not just an emerging crisis for commuters, it is also a serious health hazard. Wala ring magagawa ang pag-limit sa pasahero sa mga tren at bus, kung sa kalsada pa lang ay exposed na sila sa health risks habang sila ay nasa mahaba, dikit-dikit at matao na pila,” she added.
Under service contracting, PUV operators and drivers will be paid by the government per kilometer to ply routes. Hontiveros says the plan has already been tried and tested by local government units which utilized service contracting to transport frontline healthcare workers during the enhanced community quarantine period.
The senator also added that this will make it easier for authorities to enforce social-distancing measures during trips. What’s more, such a scheme will remove the disadvantages of a boundary system and will help PUV operators and drivers affected by the ongoing pandemic cope with the situation. If the government has no funds, Hontiveros suggested that service arrangements be made on a rotational basis.
“To protect our commuters, the government should coordinate with our transport sector to expand, not limit, our public transport options in the weeks to come. Mas maiiwasan natin ang hawaan ng sakit kung mas marami, mas ligtas at mas maluwag ang mga sasakyang pampubliko na babiyahe sa mga siyudad at bayan.”
Do you think service contracting is a viable solution to the current shortage of rides?