Friday, January 14, 2022

On the implementation of the No Vaccination, No Ride Policy

Wazzup Pilipinas!?

The “no vaccination, no ride” policy of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) was made to protect ALL — whether vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals – to safeguard those that are most at risk, our healthcare system, and our exhausted medical workers amid the recent surge of COVID-19 cases recorded 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.

Severe COVID-19 infections caused by non-vaccination result in an overwhelming 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.”

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 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.

We also do not want businesses to shut down due to the surge in COVID-19 cases. According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), our campaign is all-encompassing. If we do not act now, all industries and business sectors will be severely affected. Either the businesses will minimize workers, cut down on some parts of their business, retrench employees, or shut down to cut down on losses or pay off debts. And this affects not only the business owners but people who will lose their job and all those who depend on them.

On 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. WE DO NOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THE UNVACCINATED, BUT WE ARE PROTECTING THEM.

We would also wish to ensure the public that the implementation of the said policy will be both tolerant and firm.

On questions regarding the Legal Basis of the policy, please note 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 unvaccinated from using public transportation. We are supporting those local legal directives.

To be clear, 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.

We would also like to inform the public that it is DOTr’s position that the "no vaccination, no ride/entry" policy does not violate RA 11525, which 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 policy is also in line with the order of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to restrict the movement of people who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 in Metro Manila, which is now experiencing an uptick in cases.

As what the World Health Organization said: “You can’t put out half a fire. No one is safe, until we are all safe.”

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