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MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) denied that the “No vaccination, no ride” policy is anti-poor and said that necessary measures have to be in place to prevent another public transport shutdown.
In a statement on Thursday, January 13, DOTr apologized if the policy, set to take effect on Monday, January 17, would cause any inconvenience.
“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,” the DOTr said.
The transport ban did not sit well with the public, especially with the statement that the unvaccinated can instead “use their private vehicle” when going around.
Move As One Coalition said that the policy only “burdens commuters and transport workers,” pointing out how difficult it is to enforce and that only 1 in 10 Filipinos have private vehicles.
The DOTr should instead look at proper ventilation in public transport and terminals and increase supply by properly implementing service contracting, Move as One said.
Labor group Partido Manggagawa (PM), meanwhile, saw this as discrimination. PM called on the government to look for ways to speed up vaccination and warned some people might resort to fake vaccination cards.
On Thursday, the department reiterated that there are exemptions in place, especially for unvaccinated people who have medical conditions and those who are getting essential goods and services. DOTr also earlier said that those going to vaccination sites are exempted from the ban.
The department said that the implementation of the policy will be both “tolerant and firm.”
“[For] those saying that the “no vaccination, no ride/entry” policy in public transport is anti-poor, draconian or punitive, we believe that it is more anti-poor and anti-life if we will not impose interventions that will prevent loss of life due to non-vaccinations,” it said.
“We do not discriminate against the unvaccinated, but we are protecting them,” it added.
It highlighted that barring the unvaccinated from public transport was only placed to protect the public and frontline transport workers. It noted the multiple COVID-19 outbreaks in railways during the pandemic.
“We want to prevent another public transport shutdown. 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,” it said.
Earlier on Thursday, the Commission on Human Rights opposed DOTr’s order, saying that it “restricts the exercise and enjoyment of fundamental rights.”
The DOTr is treading a fine line.
It reiterated: “There is no directive to prohibit travel. Unvaccinated individuals are allowed to travel by using other means aside from public transport. Even the Department Order of the DOTr has exceptions.”
“Remember that the so-called right to ride needs to be balanced with our responsibility as transport regulator to maintain and preserve safe travel.”
The transportation department also said that the policy does not violate Republic Act No. 11525 or the vaccination law, which states that vaccination cards should not be considered a mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other government transactions.
“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,” it said. – Rappler.com