By Chito Chavez
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año on Sunday welcomed the proposal of Bohol Governor Arthur Yap to install a hard plastic shield between the motorcycle driver and the passenger that makes back riding legal even during the quarantine period.
Yap’s proposal is not new, according to Año, but is a much improved version of what is currently done in Indonesia to ensure public mobility without compromising health protocols.
Under Yap’s suggestion, Año said that a handle will be placed on the hard plastic shield that will enable the passenger to maintain his balance without touching the motorcycle driver.
However, Año said that this proposal is subject to the strict scrutiny of the Inter-Agency Task force (IATF) and the Department of Health (DOH) before submitting their assessment for the President’s approval.
Despite intense public grumblings, Año insisted that it is too risky to allow motorcycle back-riding couples to travel on the road in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
His statement came at the heels of the President’s declaration that back-rides even for couples are still banned, including in areas placed under general community quarantine (GCQ).
Año also said that while couples might not observe physical distancing at home, he insisted that under quarantine protocols it must be observed in public.
As earlier mentioned by DILG Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya, allowing back-riding even for couples will make it difficult for the law enforcers to enforce social distancing under quarantine guidelines.
In a previous interview, Malaya said it will be impossible for the police to determine if the back-riding motorcycle occupants are indeed couples.
Año appealed for public understanding, saying that motorcycle back-riding may be more economical but it poses greater health risks.
Stressing his point, Año maintained that it is costlier to die when one is infected by COVID-19.
However, he gave the assurance that the ban is not “forever” as motorcycle back-rides will be allowed when the COVID-19 situation improves and the country transforms to the “new normal.’’
The DILG chief had previously recommended that motorcycle owners attach sidecars to their vehicles, but the riders frowned on the idea.