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To avoid public transportation shutdowns, a ‘no vax, no ride’ policy has been implemented

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced on Thursday that the “no vaccine, no ride” policy in public transportation in the National Capital Region (NCR) is intended to avoid a complete shutdown like the one experienced during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DOTr warned in a statement that such a closure might happen if additional public transportation employees test positive for Covid-19.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep our public transportation systems safe and operational.” If we have another round of public transportation closures, it will be even more difficult for commuters,” the DOTr stated.

After the mandatory Covid-19 vaccine policy in public transportation was attacked for its legality and discrimination against unvaccinated people, the department issued a statement.

A spike in Covid-19 instances, according to the agency, could lead to the closure of impacted enterprises, in addition to impacting public transportation.

“All industries and business sectors will be badly impacted if we do not act immediately.” “To reduce losses or pay off debts, enterprises would either minimize staff, cut back on some sections of their operation, retrench employees, or close down,” the DOTr added.

The regulation requiring full vaccination against Covid-19 in public transportation is not discriminatory, according to the government, but rather a way to preserve public health.

“We would also like to assure the public that the above-mentioned policy will be implemented in a tolerant and firm manner,” the DOTr said.

The DOTr’s department order, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) recent resolution, and ordinances adopted by all local government units (LGU) in the NCR that prohibit the mobility of the indigent serve as the policy’s legal foundation.

“To be clear, no directive prohibiting travel exists. Individuals who have not been vaccinated are permitted to travel by means other than public transportation. “Even the DOTr’s Department Order has exceptions,” the DOTr explained.

It further stated that the policy does not contravene Republic Act 11525, which specifies that immunization cards are not to be considered an extra necessary condition for educational, employment, or other government transactions.

“Access to public transit is not one of the prohibited activities.” The Administrative Code takes precedence, which requires the DOTr to provide safe transportation to the general public,” according to the DOTr.

The regulation is also in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s decree to limit unvaccinated people’s mobility in the NCR due to the high number of coronavirus cases.

Following the issuance of Department Order No. 2022 – 001 of the DOTr, only fully vaccinated individuals will be able to use public transit in the NCR from Monday.

Individuals with medical issues that preclude full Covid-19 vaccination, as well as those who will obtain needed products and services as demonstrated by a medical certificate or a barangay health pass, are exempt from the regulation.

‘Beyond the pale’

The issuing of DO No. 2022-001, according to Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, head of the House Ways and Means Committee, was plain “out of line with the most fundamental right to movement.”

“We cannot make vaccination certificates a requirement for availing of government services,” Salceda said, citing Section 12 of Republic Act No. 11525. “At the very least, the DO will breach that in the case of LRTs, MRTs, and the EDSA Carousel,” he added.

He explained that the purpose of vaccination is to keep the economy open.

“Restricting their mobility is nowhere near allowing the economy to work,” Salceda added, noting that 58 million Filipinos are still without immunizations.

Before enacting restrictive laws, he believes the government should ensure that everybody who needs a vaccine can get one.

“As a result, vaccines must be broadly available, with a special focus on the poor.” Otherwise, it risks denying fundamental public services to the poor who wish to be vaccinated but whose local governments have yet to reach them,” he warned.

Salceda also called on the government to clean up the national immunization database.

“My first dose was not even listed in the online vaccination certificate.” The LGU-issued vaccination certificates are incredibly easy to forge. And if any unvaccinated person is able to get over the checks with a forged certificate, the policy is rendered useless,” he stated.

He urged the Metro Manila Council to begin vigorous immunization efforts that include transportation and other incentives for low-income residents.

“It would be tremendously unfair to deny public transportation to individuals who wish to get vaccinated but have restricted access to them.” “It will have an impact on their livelihoods,” he predicted.

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