Going through quarantine checkpoints in the entire Metro Manila area is about to become easier for frontline personnel and other people authorized to travel under the COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions.
To achieve this, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-MEID) are expanding the RapidPass Project, an online registration service for frontliners, to cover the whole of Metro Manila.
Developed by DevCon Philippines and the DOST, RapidPass.ph is a website that provides for free a unique QR code that serves as authorization for frontliners like health workers and people delivering food, medicine and other essential supplies to go through checkpoints quickly and securely. The QR code can be printed on paper and placed on vehicles, or, saved on smartphones to be shown to uniformed personnel manning Quarantine Control Points (QCPs).
To enable the service to work throughout Metro Manila, PLDT Inc.’s wireless subsidiary Smart Communications, has provided the DOST with 540 smartphones loaded with voice, SMS and data packages. The mobile devices will be used by the Philippine National Police (PNP) at the QCPs to read and confirm the validity of the QR codes being shown by frontliners, thus facilitating their movement.
“Your company's support to the government to realize the full operationalization of RapidPass will affect millions of Filipinos who will benefit from the decongestion of Quarantine Control Points, as well as the health of PNP personnel at the control points as they will now be able to exercise social distancing with the use of RapidPass,” said DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Pena in a letter to PLDT Chairman and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan who approved Smart’s support for the initiative.
At the launch of the RapidPass service in early April, PLDT, through its Enterprise Business Group, supplied an initial batch of 200 smartphones for the trial implementation of the system. The first phase of the project covered the main checkpoints at the boundaries of Metro Manila which helped authorities to set up RapidPass lanes in the highways leading to and from the metro area.
To expand RapidPass coverage to all of NCR, the DOST needed an additional 340 mobile phones to bring the total count to 540. These phones will be used to equip with three devices each of the 180 checkpoints which daily process an estimated 1 million people in Metro Manila who are allowed to go out of their homes for work or other essential purposes.
Moving forward, the IATF is thinking of using the RapidPass system for the entire country, even after the COVID-19 Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) is lifted, either entirely or partially. This will help the government control the movement of traffic even after restrictions are relaxed and thus help prevent the continued spread of the coronavirus.
“We hope that this initiative of the DOST, DevCon, DICT and the IATF will provide a positive example of how we can fight the COVID-19 pandemic in a smart way, using digital technologies,” said Jovy Hernandez, ePLDT President and CEO and SVP & Head of PLDT and Smart Enterprise Business Groups.
“We are grateful to the DOST and IATF for giving us the opportunity to help make life easier for our frontliners as they provide services that are so vital to the public,” said Jane B. Basas, SVP & Head of Consumer Wireless Business.