MANILA, Philippines – Workers are not covered by the controversial “No vaccination, no ride” policy being enforced in public transportation in Metro Manila, clarified Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday, January 18.
This was backed up by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on the same day when it said work is deemed an “essential activity” hence workers fall under the persons exempted from the rule.
“It does not apply to our workers, maliwanag naman ‘yan eh (that’s clear). They are doing essential services so they are exempted from the ‘no vax, no ride’ policy,” said Bello during a Malacañang press briefing.
“Hirap na hirap na nga sila magtrabaho, papahirapan mo pa sila pumasok sa trabaho,” he added. (They are already having a difficult time at work, you will make it harder for them to go to work.)
The clarification was made amid confusion about exemptions, with Bello told of experiences of workers who were turned away from their rides because they were not yet fully-vaccinated.
DOTr’s Department Order No. 2022-001, the written basis of the rule, listed these as exceptions: Persons with medical conditions that prevent full COVID-19 vaccination and “persons who will procure essential goods and services, such as but not limited to food, water, medicine, medical devices, public utilities, energy, work, and medical and dental necessities…”
Since the order was released, the government has borne the brunt of criticism, with lawyers, politicians, and groups blasting the policy as “anti-poor,” a form of discrimination, and a violation of rights.
Bello, however, said he is not the authority when it comes to rules applicable to government workers as this is the purview of the Civil Service Commission. The current definition of work as an essential activity does not distinguish between work in the private or government sector.
Told that many unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated workers have been turned away in train stations, Bello said a massive “information drive” was needed to ensure implementing agencies like the Philippine National Police are on the same page about the rules.
The DOTr, in a statement, included work in its list of essential activities in a statement issued on Tuesday.
Other activities deemed essential are:
- medical check-up or examination
- buying essential goods
- applying for license, passport, etc.
- getting vaccinated
“You need to present proof, like an ID showing you work in that company, a medical appointment, certification from your company that you have an interview or exam, or health pass from the barangay showing you will obtain essential goods, among others,” said DOTr.
Workers can just show law enforcers their company ID when taking public transportation, said Bello.
What about informal workers without company IDs? According to DOTr Department Order No. 2022-001, unvaccinated people doing essential activities need to show a health pass issued by the barangay to be allowed to board public transportation. DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran also said that a barangay certificate would also be accepted.
Meanwhile, the labor chief urged private companies to increase their workers’ number of paid leaves as a way to protect workers from losing pay when they do their mandatory quarantine or isolation after exposure to COVID-19 or infection. – with reports from Aika Rey/Rappler.com
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