‘No vax, no ride’ policy earns cheers, jeers from lawmakers, stakeholders

EDSA

The "no vaccination, no ride" policy that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is set to impose next week has garnered both support and dissent from lawmakers and stakeholders.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Who threw support behind the no vaccination, no ride policy?

    Among those who have supported the policy are Senator Grace Poe, Samar Representative Edgar Sarmiento, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAP) and several transport groups.
  • Who expressed dissent over the policy?

    Assistant Minority leader France Castro verbalized her disapproval against the department order. 
  • Senator Grace Poe, Samar Representative Edgar Sarmiento, the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAP) and various transport groups expressed support for the department order signed last January 11.

    Poe, who is the Senate Committee on Public Services chair, said that she “understands the department order to protect the riding public.”

    “Data have shown that those that were fully vaccinated were less likely to have severe symptoms of COVID infection. Majority of those that have died or have been hospitalized were unvaccinated. I can understand the policy of the DOTr in order to protect the riding public. We should encourage everyone to get vaccinated unless they have a legitimate underlying health reason not to,” Poe shared.

    EDSA

    Sarmiento, who chairs the House Committee Chairman on Transportation, urged unvaccinated individuals to comply with the DOTr’s directive until COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region have dropped.

    "I think that our people who are unvaccinated for whatever reason should comply for now with the requirement of the DOTr until the transmission becomes more manageable," Sarmiento noted.

    According to PHAP President Dr. Jose Rene de Grano, most of the unvaccinated population are severely hit by COVID-19 due to lack of protection and suggested that unvaccinated individuals stay at home to avoid catching the virus.

    He cited that 85 percent of the 20 private hospitals in Metro Manila have reached critical occupancy level and that these private hospitals are understaffed with 5-10 percent of its healthcare workers under quarantine.

    In the meeting with the LTFRB regarding the new policy yesterday (January 12) bus operators from Metro Manila routes expressed compliance to it, saying they will ensure the safety of their drivers and conductors from catching the virus.

    Araneta Center Bus Station

    “Kaya po masaya kami na merong ganitong mga polisiya at kami po ay susunod talaga (That is why we are happy that there are such policies and we will definitely follow),” affirmed Juliet De Jesus of Vil5000 Bus Line, Inc.

    Liga ng mga Transportasyon at mga Operator sa Pilipinas (LTOP) President Orlando Marquez and Pasang Masda president Obet Martin shared the same sentiment to reduce the virus’ community transmission.

    For his part, Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) Operations Manager Jason Salvador declared that the PITX will do its part in ensuring the safety of passengers at the terminal, and will coordinate with the DOTr and LTFRB in enforcing the order.

    MMDA inspection

    Meanwhile, Assistant Minority Leader and France Castro of ACT Teachers partylist is against the policy, saying that public transport is a public utility and should be denied to anyone who needs access to it.

    "This policy is simply absurd, unconstitutional, anti-poor and discriminatory. Instead of barring unvaccinated people from using public transport, why won't the DOTr instead provide free rides to vaccination sites and help the government educate people and curb vaccine hesitancy?" Castro raised.

    Hindi lahat ng mamamayan ay may sasakyan para makapunta sa kanilang mga vaccine schedule. Hindi rin naman dinadala sa mga bahay bahay ang bakuna. Paano ngayon makukumbinse ng administrasyong Duterte na magpabakuna ang mahigit kalahati ng populasyon ng Pilipinas kung ipagbabawal ng gobyerno na gumamit ng public transportation ang mahigit kalahati ng populasyon nito? (Not all citizens have a vehicle to get to their vaccine schedules nor is the vaccine brought to homes. How can the Duterte administration now convince more than half of the Philippine population to get vaccinated if the government bans public use where more than half of the population?)"  

    Public utility bus

    Saying that there is no scientific basis that those unvaccinated are contagious, Castro said that the department should focus on providing adequate public transportation for the people, “not deny access to half of the population of the country.”

    For its part, the department defended the soon-to-be-implemented policy, explaining that it was made to protect those who are most at risk (whether vaccinated or not, as well as the country’s healthcare system and the medical workers following the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in the country.

    “The policy is for the benefit of the majority and the common good. Hence, we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause the riding public. It is important to note that the policy only takes effect while Alert Level 3 (or higher) is implemented to stem the surging cases of COVID-19, particularly with the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant,” the DOTr said in a statement.

    “Severe COVID-19 infections caused by non-vaccination result in an overwhelming number of cases of hospitalization. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been very clear: ‘while Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, it remains a dangerous virus, particularly for those who are unvaccinated,” it mentioned.

    Further, the DOTr said that they want to prevent another public transport shutdown, citing that last year, many of the public transport personnel got infected with the virus.

    “Worse, if the number of public transport personnel infected with the virus goes higher, we might face another shutdown just like what happened last year in the MRT-3, LRT lines, and PNR, as most front-facing passengers were infected with the virus… We are doing everything we can to maintain and keep our public transport operations safe and running. It will be a much heavy burden for commuters if we experience a repeat of public transport closures.”

    Moreover, the government arm said that the policy is meant to protect the unvaccinated and not to discriminate, adding that the implementation of the will be both tolerant and firm.

    Pertaining to the legality of the policy, the DOTr alluded that the Metro Manila Council already issued a Resolution last week on the guidelines for unvaccinated individuals. The Resolution prohibits unvaccinated individuals from boarding public transport.

    “This Resolution was approved and signed by all Metro Manila Mayors and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and is strongly supported by the IATF. Our Department Order was issued in support of that Resolution. Further, all LGU Ordinances in Metro Manila prohibit the unvaccinated from using public transportation. We are supporting those local legal directives.”

    Furthermore, the DOTr said that unvaccinated individuals are still allowed to travel by using other means aside from public transport. “Remember that the so-called right to ride needs to be balanced with our responsibility as transport regulator to maintain and preserve safe travel.”

    dotr-no-vaxx-no-ride-entry

    The DOTr also shared that the no vaccination, no ride policy does not violate Republic Act 11525 that states that vaccine cards shall not be considered as additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment and other similar government transaction purposes.

    “Access to public transportation is not among those enumerated in the prohibition. The Administrative Code prevails, which mandates DOTr to provide safe transportation services to the general public,” the department explained.

    Photos from Ruben D. Manahan IV, Araneta Center, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Department of Transportation

    Also read:

    DOTr calls for more thorough disinfection of public transport

    Taguig City adopts MMDA resolution for limited mobility of unvaxxed

    NCR back to Alert Level 3 restrictions, transport sector to implement basic health protocols

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