MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is eyeing the expansion of a program contracting public transport operators once Metro Manila is lifted from modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

This will help meet an expected gap in available public transport should MECQ be lifted on August 18.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board chair Martin Delgra III said the DOTr has been in talks with the Department of Budget and Management and the National Economic Development Authority to allocate funds for service contract arrangements.

Under service contracting, the government collects the fares from the riders and pays the public utility vehicle operator assigned to a specific route a fixed-amount. Operators will be subject to key performance standards such as the number of trips and safety, allowing them to focus on improving services for commuters.

“We will continue to discuss and explore the implementation of the service contracting. We are hoping for its swift resumption and expansion, especially given the success of our previous contract service arrangement along EDSA,” Delgra said in a statement.

The DOTr pointed to the finalization of stimulus bill 1564 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, where it proposed that service contracting of public transport be included in the budget.

“We will continue to discuss and explore the implementation of the service contracting. We are hoping for its swift resumption and expansion, especially given the success of our previous contract service arrangement along EDSA,” Delgra said.

From June 1 through July 29, the DOTr implemented service contracting in its MRT-3 Bus Augmentation Program in order to help address the decrease in MRT-3’s capacity due to strict observance of physical distancing.

Delgra said they deployed 90 buses and served around 400,000 passengers during that period.

But urban transport advocates said this still fell short of demand to serve the commuting public.

Under MECQ, the DOTr said only dedicated shuttles for frontliners and company workers under allowed industries will be permitted to travel subject to strict health and safety protocols.

Buses, jeepneys, taxis, trains are prohibited, the department said.

“The DOTr is one with the call for a commuter-centric public transport system,” DOTr assistant secretary for road sector Mark Steven Pastor said in the same statement.

“Rest assured that while we are under stricter lockdown, the government is also discussing the resumption of public transport to enable the full movement of businesses and commuters to push for economic recovery,” he added.



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TAGS: Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, coronavirus, COVID-19, DOTr, Health, LTFRB, MECQ, pandemic, PUVs, transportation, Virus

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