By Zaldy Comanda
BAGUIO CITY – An ordinance officially mandating that everyone observe physical distancing while in the city has been approved by the City Council here on May 4, to help in the fight to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Under the ordinance, physical distancing must be observed in workplaces, business establishments, crowd-drawing events; in business operations or in any activity that entails queuing or formation of a line; and in public utility vehicles such as but not limited to public utility jeepneys, taxis, company shuttles, and transport network vehicles.
Motorcycle ridesharing, such as that offered by “Angkas”, has also been prohibited under the ordinance.
The ordinance quotes Arindam Basu, an associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, who defines social distancing as “a way of creating a barrier of physical distance between two or more people so that transmission of virus can be prevented or halted.”
The legislation also notes that the World Health Organization (WHO), through a press conference on March 20, explained that “physical distancing” is a more appropriate term than “social distancing” as the former implies that people should remain “physically separate but socially connected.”
The WHO recommends staying more than one meter away from the nearest person.
The approved measure reiterates that, according to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Spokesperson, physical distancing will become regular practice under the new normal once restrictions under the current enhanced community quarantine are lifted or relaxed.
Under the ordinance, non-compliant individuals shall be fined P500 for the first offense, P1,000 for the second offense, and P3,000 for the third offense.
The ordinance stipulates that it shall be the duty of PUV drivers/operators and persons in charge of government and private offices, workplaces, business operations, events and activities, to ensure that physical distancing is applied under their supervision.
They shall be tasked to post signage in their establishments, offices, and vehicles notifying the public of the physical distancing policy and penalties of violations specified in the ordinance.
According to the ordinance, non-compliant persons in charge shall be fined P3,000.00 for the first offense, P4,000.00 for the second offense, and P5,000.00 and cancellation of business permit if applicable for the third offense.
Any government official or employee found to have violated any provision of the ordinance shall be meted administrative disciplinary action, without prejudice to the filing of the appropriate criminal or civil action pursuant to Article b of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code of the Philippines.
The offices tasked to ensure successful enforcement of the ordinance are the City Health Services Office, the Baguio City Police Office, the Public Order and Safety Division, and the Permits and Licensing Division.