Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7)

As one of the oldest government agencies in the Philippines, dating back to shortly after the foundation of the very country when it was established under the Malolos Constitution on January 21, 1899, the Department of Transportation’s (DoTr) history of public service is among the most storied.

From the American Colonization period, when the management of public property and revenue and the use of all public means of transportation were to be conducted by the US Army, to the Japanese Occupation when the exiled Commonwealth government of President Manuel Quezon reorganized and the Department of Public Works and Communication became the Department of National Defense, Public Works, Communications and Labor, the DoTr stood proud to be part of Philippine history.

Undoubtedly, the past two years add quite a lot more to the challenges the agency has faced.

“If we are to look back at 2020, we can say that it was indeed an epic disruptive year. We cannot talk about 2020 without the global crisis subject brought by what is probably the greatest challenge of our time — the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic,” Secretary Arthur Tugade said in the Department of Transportation 2020 annual report.

The DoTr is the primary policy, planning, programming, coordinating, implementing and administrative entity of the executive branch of the government on the promotion, development and regulation of a dependable and coordinated network of transportation systems, as well as in the fast, safe, efficient and reliable transportation services.

Mr. Tugade reiterated that the agency plays a crucial role in accelerating the country’s economic development, providing the backbone for growth and enhancing the country’s competitive edge by creating effective and efficient transportation infrastructure systems that narrow the geographical and physical divide, connecting the country, its islands, and its people to the rest of the world. A role made all the more difficult by the restrictions COVID-19 has brought with it.

DoTr Secretary Arthur P. Tugade

“With the emergence of the deadly disease, lockdowns and border closures were enforced in many countries resulting in the decline in passenger transport demand. The transportation sector has been one of the primary victims of COVID-19. From air, road, railways, to sea travels, all have been suffering from the outbreak’s disproportionate economic impacts. Consequently, the Philippine transportation sector was not spared,” Mr. Tugade said.

“With our mandate to develop efficient and reliable transport services and networks, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) is further challenged to up the ante by striking a balance between implementing an appropriate response plan for contingencies and upholding public welfare. We need to keep a core of the public transportation system operational while keeping the Filipino people safe. Thus, various initiatives have been implemented to surmount present challenges and help the country’s economy recover,” he added.

To address the country’s mobility needs amid the threat of COVID-19, the DoTr has taken initiatives to tap digitalization efforts that will help boost various transport infrastructure projects and programs in all sectors (Roads, Railways, Maritime. Airports and Aviation), across the country.

Under Secretary Tugade’s vision to digitally transform transportation, the DoTr has committed itself to promote and develop smart solutions that will help address mobility and connectivity.

In a recent Smart Mobility Forum, the DoTr reinforced its position, expressing that the current situation has made it even more imperative for the department to re-calibrate and re-strategize its ways of doing things to address the country’s mobility needs.

Secretary Tugade said that the department is gearing to a future wherein technological advancements will be highly optimized, where there is a gradual shift to the ‘new normal’. By promoting smart mobility through digitalization, the DoTr continues to support initiatives in the present as a long-term solution for the future, and in the process, allow commuters to regain confidence in commuting.

“It is in this premise that the DoTr is on a mission to revolutionize mobility to keep up with the changing times and shape the country’s transport system into one that is resilient and adaptable to the future,” Mr. Tugade said.

“And so, we have embraced digitalization and continue to harness best practices in technology in all of our four sectors, namely, the Aviation and Airports, Railways, Road, and Maritime sectors to deliver swift agency processes and limit human intervention for the safety of the people,” he added.

For its continuity plan for the future, the DoTr aims to keep developing mobility systems by engaging an asset build-up strategy through building much-needed infrastructures. Despite health and community restrictions, the “BUILD, BUILD, BUILD” program continues.

“Further, we will strive to demonstrate resilience in the face of COVID-19 by implementing stringent health and safety protocols in all public transport systems. Your DoTr also remains alert and active in response efforts on whatever challenges, calamities, and uncertainties we are facing and will be facing as a nation,” Mr. Tugade said.

“Respond. Recover. Thrive. These words will be our guiding principle moving forward. And we look ahead to a future that sees the Filipino people enjoying the comfortable life they deserve,” he shared. — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran