‘Shotgun approach’: NGOs adopt ‘no vax, no ride’ policy on public transport

Franco Luna – Philstar.fr

January 13, 2022 | 15:00

MANILA, Philippines – Banning the unvaccinated from using public transport is a “shotgun approach” that will only inconvenience commuters instead of tackling the coronavirus outbreak in Metro Manila, say transport advocacy groups on Thursday.

It comes a day after the DOTr announced the ‘no vaccine, no ride’ policy on public transportation modes in the Capital Region ‘to avoid a repeat public transportation shutdown. [and] protect those most at risk.” He said those affected can “use other modes” instead.

In a statement sent to the media, the Move as One Coalition said the move “unduly burdens commuters and transport workers and does not address more fundamental issues” – such as lack of aid, testing and ventilation. in public transport and public spaces – which also cause the spread of the pathogen.

The transport advocacy group has urged the national government’s coronavirus task force to allow more public transport units to use their routes while ensuring these units have adequate ventilation to prevent transmission of the virus. COVID-19 – which a government adviser says is largely airborne.

“The policy will weigh more heavily on weary commuters who already struggle to take limited public transport and have no other way to get around…Excluding them from public transport would prevent them from going to work, earn a living and feed their families,” the coalition statement read.

“Because the government has not budgeted enough aid in the 2022 budget, many families will suffer and go hungry because of this policy.”

READ: ‘No vaccine, no ride’ on public transport deemed inconvenient and rights violating

“Not practical and cumbersome to apply”

Under the order, the department said violations of the policy are considered violations of applicable general safety and health provisions under any dealership or service agreement, authorization or permit. operating public transport and other similar instruments.

According to Move as One co-organizer and transport economist Robert Siy, the policy “exposes drivers and operators to further harassment from law enforcement, particularly when supply is well below of demand,” while authorities “cannot expect drivers to check all passengers’ vaccination cards, especially during peak hours.”

In a separate interview aired on GMA’s Unang Balita, Ric Rivera of Pilipino Society and Development Advocates Commuter-Consumer said the policy could only require commuters to use colorum vehicles.

“Better really attract our PUVs. Don’t limit them. Because they already have special permits and franchises. That would help us more,” he reportedly said in Filipino in a GMA News Online report.

Even Transportation Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr. admitted at a Wednesday morning press briefing that the brunt of the policy falls on drivers and operators who will need to verify that each passenger is able to present a vaccination card before to allow them to board.

But months before the policy was even conceptualized, jeepney drivers said checkpoints set up for law enforcement to check compliance with minimum public health standards only intimidated drivers with aggressive enforcement, forcing some to stay home for fear of operating at a loss. . It only meant fewer transportation options for the traveling public, they said.

READ: In ECQ ‘bubble’, commuter safety checkpoints hurt hardened drivers

“If unvaccinated workers are not allowed to use public transport to get to work, it amounts to being a requirement for work,” said Dante Lagman, head of Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Transportasyon. Philstar.com earlier.

“Shopping centers [are] not essential but pendulum [is] extremely essential… there really is a violation of the right to mobility. We are exempt as consumers, but we are not as workers. It just means you can buy, you can go out if you want to spend, but not if you want to work and earn,” Passenger Forum manager Primo Morillo also said. Philstar.com.

DOTr apologizes for the inconvenience but supports the policy

In a series of Viber messages sent to reporters Thursday morning, transportation spokeswoman Goddess Libiran apologized to the public for the inconvenience, but stressed that the DOTr was implementing the policy “to stem the outbreak.” cases of COVID-19″.

“If we don’t act now, all industries and all business sectors will be severely affected due to the increase in the number of infected people,” she said.

She was also careful to point out that the Metro Manila Council had already issued a similar resolution that “also prohibits unvaccinated people from boarding public transport.”

Metro Manila Council resolutions require local government units to issue local ordinances to be implemented in their localities and are non-binding.

“We believe it is more anti-poor and anti-life if we do not impose interventions that will prevent loss of life from non-vaccination,” the DOTr statement read. “We would also like to assure the public that the implementation of said policy will be both tolerant and firm.”

As of this writing, only 67.8% of Metro Manila residents are fully immunized. Transportation and human rights groups continue to push for better access to vaccines instead of punishing the unvaccinated.

“The policy fails to address the current inequity in access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines. Many commuters – especially those who come from the provinces and travel to, from or within Metro Manila – n don’t have access to vaccines,” Siy said. .

READ: As DOTr bans unvaccinated transports, Metro Manila mayors launch vax sites for access and incentives

“While the goal of the policy is to encourage more people to get vaccinated and to tackle vaccine hesitancy, there are other less punitive and more humane ways to achieve this goal,” he said. he added, suggesting monetary incentives and information campaigns to tackle vaccine hesitancy.

According to data from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, 88% or nearly nine out of ten households in Metro Manila do not own a private vehicle and must rely on public transport.

The ban, which covers all modes of public transport to and from Metro Manila, is set to come into effect on Monday, January 17.

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