IATF OKs service contracting scheme for public transport

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced Monday that the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has adopted its proposed service contracting scheme for public transport to ensure a safe and stable public transportation system amid the global pandemic.


In an IATF resolution dated Sept. 7, the implementation of service contracting of public utility vehicles (PUVs) being pushed by the DOTr and the Economic Development Cluster (EDC) has been approved to subsidize public transport operations, incentivize PUV operators to return, serve commuters, and restore the livelihood of displaced transport workers, among others.

In a statement, the DOTr said that it will lead the implementation of the policy with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) once the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan 2 bill is signed.

The proposed stimulus bill, according to the DOTr, has allocated budget to carry out a more financially-viable contracting scheme that will benefit the overall public transport sector including operators and the riding public.

Transportation Assistant Secretary for Road Transport and Infrastructure Steve Pastor added that the inclusion of service contracting in the proposed bill was developed in response to the financial constraints experienced by many PUV operators and drivers due to the stringent health and sanitary protocols that must be observed in public transport.

"Due to the limitations imposed on our public transportation, operators and drivers may not be able to sustain their operations. This may lead to inconsistent travel trips causing commuters to compete for rides, while drivers and operators disregard passenger capacity in exchange for more revenue," Pastor said.

"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 pointed out.

Based on the proposed service contracting scheme, the government will be paying operators and drivers of public transportation units based on vehicle-kilometers traveled and specific performance indicators.

LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra III said this is to not only ensure fair compensation for transport workers but to also encourage better public transport services for the benefit of commuters.

"The new arrangement of service contracts among public transportation will no longer just depend on the number of passengers being carried. We are ensuring that our drivers will be fully compensated for their services, despite the imposed load limitations," Delgra added.

The DOTr emphasized that safety and health protocols are still required to be followed by operators and drivers, while they will also have to operate within a set of working hours and must be able to provide available back-up units should there be cases of vehicle breakdowns.

In addition, the DOTr said that public utility vehicles (PUVs) must also pass roadworthiness standards of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and must not have been involved in any road crash incident in the last two years.

Aside from the total vehicle-kilometer traveled of contracted drivers and operators, the LTFRB will also base payment on their conformance to adhere to these safety standards.

"To ensure fairness as well, we will be employing a third-party monitoring entity to evaluate the total vehicle-kilometers operated, the reliability of their services, driver and vehicle quality and customer satisfaction," Delgra said.

The LTFRB chief said the agency is now finalizing guidelines on the said scheme as contracted drivers and operators will render their services based on the provisions to be provided by the Board.

The transport sector has been among the hardest-hit by the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine which mandated a suspension on all forms of public transportation, cutting the main source of income of thousands of PUV drivers and operators, and left many of them begging in the streets for money and food.