Strange things happening with DOTr

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul Villarete (The Freeman) - October 6, 2020 - 12:00am

It started with the social distancing in transit.  Initially, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), through the Department of Transportation (DOTr) set the minimum distance between passengers in the transit system at a minimum of 1 meter.  Suddenly, DOTr decided to lower it to 0.75 m. with the intention of lowering it down further to 0.50 m. later, allegedly based on science.  DOH and DILG disagreed, and ultimately, so did the IATF.  So, the DOTr pulled back the order.  The question is, on what science did DOTr based its order?  Is it a different science than that of DOH ad IATF?  How can we succeed in fighting Covid-19 if we depend on different sciences?  And why would DOTr’s science be better than that of DOH, especially with regards to Covid-19? Strange.

Now there’s this move of DOTr again suspending the use of Beep cards in the busway services along EDSA.  It is universally known that cashless transactions, especially in transit systems, are one effective protocol to curve Covid-19 transmissions. Early on, DOTr aggressively obligated that all transit denominations to use online payments – Grab, GCash, Paymaya, etc., as well as the Beep Card, which is actually a form of Automated Fare Collection System (AFCS).  Suddenly, DOTr backtracked, and suspended the Beep Card use in the Edsa busway system and allowed cash transactions. What science are they basing this now?  Isn’t this putting more passengers at risk to Covid-19 if we go back to cash again? Strange.

We might glean the reasoning on the series of news report prior to this backpedaling.  It seems DOTr wanted the Beep Card company to give out the cards for free and using Covid-19 as an excuse.  Beep Cards typically are sold at P150 with a P100 initial load, so the P50 is the card cost.  This is something common in all AFCS systems in the world.  I may have not gone to many foreign places but the places I went always had these practices … Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, etc.  Has anyone been somewhere where the cards are given free?

The fact of the matter is cards do cost something which need to be recovered and these can’t be through the fare which is variable and controlled by government.  Secondly, the initial cost of these cards prevents the possibility of passengers getting new cards every day or every time they run out of load because they’re free!  Imagine the waste if every now and then, people just throw out the cards and get new ones for free.  And since those busway operations were procured though service contracting mode, the card costs were already ingrained in the original bid of the concessionaire and any deviation to the contract would represent a change of contract provisions in the original bid or challenge procedure.  Forcing a change this late will lead to instant legal challenges.

But most importantly, why is the DOTr introducing changes which lead to a downgrading of medical safety protocols?  Why would a cashless environment protocol intended to protect the Filipinos be sacrificed because they want these cards for free?  If it’s that important, the government can afford to subsidize these. Strange indeed.

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