MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said on Thursday, March 19, that granting Pasig’s request to exempt the city’s tricyles from the ban would defeat the purpose of the island-wide lockdown to contain the novel coronavirus.
It will also encourage other citiies in the National Capital Region to ask for their own exemptions, said DILG Undersectary Jonathan Malaya during the Laging Handa briefing on the crisis.
President Rodrigo Duterte has placed Metro Manila first, then the entire Luzon, in a month-long lockdown in response to the rising cases of coronavirus infection in the country, and the measure includes banning all forms of public transportation.
Mayor Vico Sotto of Pasig City had appealed for the exemption of tricycles to move workers and residents who have medical emergencies, saying the local government’s risk assessment showed that thousands of workers and patients wouldn’t be able to move without the tricyles, which could ply the narrow streets in the city.
But Malaya said: “If we give an exemption, it will defeat the entire purpose of the quarantine. ‘Wag na lang po tayo mag-quarantine kung gano’n (Let’s not impose a quarantine if that’s the case).
Malaya said riding in tricyles would place the passengers and drivers at a risk of catching the virus.
“Let me emphasize na ang mass transpotation po talaga ay bawal ‘pag may quarantine. Dahil mass transportation ang nagdadala ng virus paikot at palayo sa mas maraming tao,” Malaya said. (Let me emphasize that mass transportation is banned when there is quarantine. Because it’s mass transportation that spreads the virus to more people.)
Netizens were quick to show that Malaya’s assumption was wrong, with a number of them posting illustrations of how, if a tricycle carries only one passenger, a safe distance between him and the driver can be maintained. (READ: #ProtectVico trends as netizens defend Pasig mayor’s coronavirus measures)
One such netizen was Jeannie Maraya, a senior high school teacher at Manila Tytana Colleges. Her illustration includes an improvised plastic cover between the tricycle driver and passenger, as well as a place inside the tricycle car for the passenger to place his payment instead of handing it to th driver.
This a simple illustration I just made. Please help me share it so that others (govt) will see why it's practical. This is my simple contribution to Mayor Vico. This is the most practical way to show them it's feasible thru tricycle. Thank you. I have included details as well. https://t.co/02QByEdoMJ“>pic.twitter.com/02QByEdoMJ— jininabottle (@JiniMaraya) https://twitter.com/JiniMaraya/status/1240470015423307782?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw“>March 19, 2020
“Transportation of our frontliners is feasible without compromising social distancing,” she wrote.
DILG’s Malaya said that, if other local government units in Metro Manila were able to provide vehicles for their health workers, he “couldn’t understand” why Pasig City had to seek for such exemption. Malaya then appealed to Sotto to “just follow” the guidelines of the IATF.
“I appeal to Mayor Vico, suportahan ‘nyo na lang po ang ating ginagawa. Mag-provide po ng mga sasakyan…gaya ng ginagawa ng ibang local government units,” he said on Thursday. (I appeal to Mayor Vico to just support what we are doing. Provide vehicles…like what other local government units are doing.)
Contrary to Malaya’s statement, Pasig City had started fielding its buses and its bicycles, free of use, for its health workers – even before some local government units in Metro Manila did so. Some private groups have also lent buses and vans to the city.
He set aside Sotto’s explanation that there are residents who live in areas with narrow streets that only tricyles could ply or they would walk long distances.
“Pa’no po ang mangyayari kung hindi makasakay ang mga health workers at libo-libong mga pasyente na nangangailangan ng treatment? Palalakarin ba talaga natin ng 5 kilometro and isang dialysis patient na senior citizen? Ang cancer patient na bagong opera?” Sotto said when he asked for an exemption.
(What will happen if health workers and the thousands of patients who need treatment don’t get a ride? Are we really going to ask a dialysis patient – a senior citizen at that – to wak 5 kilometers? And ask the same for a cancer patient who has just undergone an operation?)
On Thursday, Sotto said he would comply with the tricycle ban, even if it meant thousands would be left unserved in emergency situations.
Malacañang had also rejected Sotto’s appeal Wednesday night, March 19, saying that they couldn’t see how social distancing can be implemented inside the tricycle.
Pasig City has a population of over 750,000 people, as of the 2015 census. There are 40 public health centers and 3 public hospitals in the city. – with a report from Gaby Baizas/Rappler.com