Make S-PaSS glitch-free
As in the contact tracing app StaySafe.PH, the idea behind the Safe, Swift and Smart Passage or S-PaSS travel management system is laudable. And as in the StaySafe app, the devil is in the implementation.
StaySafe was made mandatory for local government units even as glitches in the app still had to be fully addressed. Questions persist about its accuracy and consequent usefulness in contact tracing. Several LGUs particularly in Metro Manila, still the epicenter of the pandemic, continue to use their own apps alongside StaySafe. Even the secretary of the interior and local government has said StaySafe remains “a work in progress.”
The S-PaSS is not for contact tracing, but for safer and efficient travel management during the pandemic. Or at least this is the objective of the system’s developer, the Department of Science and Technology. The DOST launched the S-PaSS last March, as the COVID surge was starting. With the S-PaSS, people can check travel restrictions in their prospective destinations. LGUs, for their part, can conduct real-time monitoring of incoming travelers.
Using the system, people can apply for a travel coordination permit, which has replaced the travel authority, for use in going to restricted areas. For crossing restricted places to reach an unrestricted destination, people can also apply for a travel pass-through permit through S-PaSS.
The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board has ordered all inter-regional and inter-provincial public utility vehicles to use the S-PaSS. All passengers must register with the S-PaSS before purchasing their PUV tickets. Proof of S-PaSS registration will be required for boarding a PUV.
The government will have to make sure that this shift to digital travel management will not cause massive inconvenience and add to public misery arising from the pandemic. Using their mobile numbers, people apply for the travel passes from LGUs through the respective websites. The DOST has stressed that it has no control over how long it might take for LGUs to approve the application. It’s unclear if people without mobile phones and digital connectivity can still be allowed to travel between regions and provinces with COVID restrictions.
Going digital generally means improved efficiency – if the system is working. As StaySafe has shown, to the detriment of contact tracing efforts and efficient pandemic response, this is not always the case in an environment with serious tech challenges. S-PaSS must not go the same way.