As several regions and provinces in the country have now transitioned to General Community Quarantine (GCQ), public utility vehicles (PUVs) have also returned to service albeit in limited numbers. As they resume operations, PUVs must ensure that passengers observe minimum health standards, which includes proper social distancing. On top of that, it seems that the Land Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will require PUVs to keep a list of all the passengers they ferry.

During the Laging Handa briefing yesterday, LTFRB Chairman Martin Delgra said that listing down passenger details is part of the new safety protocols in allowing limited PUV operations in GCQ areas. Doing so would help locate other passengers in case a COVID-19 patient used public transport. Furthermore, this won’t just be implemented for buses or AUVs, but for all transport systems. So yes, jeepneys, tricycles, and even rail transport like the MRT and LRT are included.

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Aside from listing their names, the LTFRB chair also appealed for passengers to keep a personal list of details of all the PUVs they rode in. This would be helpful should they unknowingly come into contact with a person who is positive for COVID-19 during their travels.

The idea of listing down passenger names and details is great and would help with contact tracing in the country. However, there is the question of whether the LTFRB’s order is actually possible to implement.

Based on Memorandum Circular (MC) 2020-019 released by the LTFRB, drivers, and conductors shall provide each passenger a Passenger Contact Form upon boarding. The form includes blanks for all necessary information including name, contact number, type of service, date and time of the trip, plate number of the unit, and destination. It must then be submitted through a dropbox prior to alighting. The driver or conductor must then record all passenger information in a logbook.

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One of the biggest issues with having passengers write down their details is the fact that it will be impractical. Passengers who will only travel for a short distance might not have enough time to complete the form before reaching their destination. PUV drivers will presumably also have a hard time implementing if there are numerous passengers trying to get on, especially during rush hour. Hence, compiling everything in a logbook might not be possible.

Aside from it being impractical, there is also the issue of listing down their names while onboard the vehicle. Passing a pen and paper around for passengers to write in a bus, jeepney, or any in PUV could potentially spread the disease more. Multiple individuals would have their hands on the pen, spreading germs from one to another. Not all passengers will have their own pen with them at all times either. Furthermore, passengers could falsify their names and details if they wanted to.

The response on social media has been quite divided regarding the issue of passenger contact tracing. While some say it is a good way to do contact tracing, the majority are saying how impractical it will be. Considering PUV drivers are already burdened and focused on earning daily wages, how are they certain that they will create logs? Furthermore, they add that there is also the issue of privacy as passengers will be writing down personal information.

There are certainly issues still with the LTFRB’s new order. But, what do you think? Is there a better way of doing contact tracing? Or is writing on a piece of paper and putting it in a dropbox the best way of doing things at the moment? Chime in with your comments below.