Around this time last year, Metro Manila and the rest of the country went into quarantine lockdown that officially began on March 16, 2020. It went through a plethora of acronyms such as ECQ, GECQ, MECQ, etc., that people actually no longer bother. Bottom line is that travel and transportation has yet to be “normalized” although a recent announcement from Malacanang said that it is no longer mandatory for travelers to undergo coronavirus (Covid-19) testing and quarantine. Though it feels like it is good news for some, the truth is, we are experiencing another spike in our Covid 19 cases. Though I understand the position of the government in terms of avoiding further economic collapse, should it be at the expense of the lives of our people?
According to Presidential Spokesperson, Harry Roque, “Travel authority issued by Joint Task Force COVID Shield and health certificates are no longer required. Authorized persons outside of residence (APORs) from national government agencies and their attached agencies must provide their identification card, travel order, and travel itinerary; and must pass symptom-screening at ports of entry and exit”. He added, “For the ordinary traveler, the Safe, Swift, and Smart Passage (S-PaSS) Travel Management System of the Department of Science and Technology will be institutionalized as the “one-stop-shop application/ communication for travelers”.
Speaking of DOST, this is one welcome announcement we would love to hear as they start their “DRIVER PH” project. According to the agency, the Drivers Roadworthiness Improvement Verification Education and Readiness for the Philippine Logistics Industry (DRIVER PH) project will create a system that would track a driver’s behavior. “The concept is like a driver simulator, like in a game. But instead of a console, sensors would be placed on actual vehicles or trucks. Then data would be analyzed if the driver did something or he behaved right,” Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) Director Enrico Paringit said in a press interview.
I do believe that driver education is the key to the effective management of traffic in our highways. This also ensures that commuters and motorists are kept safe and secure knowing that the truck in front or behind them is being monitored by our transportation authorities. The system, according to DOST, starts with on-line learning and educational modules, mobile learning applications, and gamified applications that will educate the drivers and evaluate their preparedness to drive a truck on the road. Data, such as location, speed, and acceleration, will be sent to the cloud server and processed by an AI-powered system. This will also detect and assess any traffic violations from the drivers’ actions. All the information will be analyzed to uncover patterns and come up with a scientific evaluation of the drivers’ competence on the road.
On another hopeful note, I would like congratulate Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto, who has been recognized by President Biden’s administration as one of 12 global anti-corruption champions. One of our upcoming young leaders here in Metro Manila, Mayor Vico made news and was earlier commended in this column because of his transportation initiatives for and on behalf of the citizens of Pasig City. Recall that despite the transportation ban and struggles during lockdowns and throughout this new normal, this Pasig mayor set up earth-friendly buses to help essential workers get from point A to point B in order to do their jobs. After the Department of the Interior and Local Government rejected his request to use tricycles, the city stepped up their game and partnered with Global Electric Transport to provide two zero-emission vehicles. He also has been fundraising to get both new and used bikes for frontliners to use as a means of transportation. Mayor Sotto even worked with Grab to provide free use of Grab scooters for medical workers.
And there of course is his creation of mobile kitchens to ensure the frontliners who were working overtime to protect Pasig were well-fed with fresh, hot meals. The mobile kitchen created around 2,000 meal packs and delivered them to over 50 locations. On top of that, he started a ‘mobile palengke’ so that residents could easily access fresh produce. This was especially important during lockdown when many people could not go to grocery stores. So, to Vico and to all our dedicated and responsible government workers like him whose efforts have made it easier for our people to live through this pandemic, we would like to convey our sincere congratulations. May your tribe increase!