Malacañang said that President Duterte will soon make a decision on the reduced distancing measures in public transportation after the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases submitted its recommendation to the Chief Executive on Tuesday evening.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after President Duterte ordered the IATF to study the decision anew following the opposition expressed by medical frontliners.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Roque said that President Duterte will make a decision soon but unless it is revoked, the new policy will stay.
“Because of serious differences…ultimately it will have to be the President who will decide,” he said Wednesday.
“I think the President may decide no later than tomorrow,” he added.
“It was previously approved in the last IATF meeting last Thursday. So until the President revokes it, I think it will be implemented,” he continued.
According to Roque, the IATF spent six hours discussing the reduced distancing measures, saying they even got the opinion of former Health secretaries Manuel Dayrit and Esperanza Cabral.
Roque recalled Dayrit’s statement that the wearing of face masks, face shields, sanitation, and prohibiting talking and using cellphones inside public transportation will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 more effectively than social distancing.
The IATF has approved reducing the physical distancing measures inside public transportation from 1 meter to .75 meter. In his interview with CNN Philippines, Roque said there was really no objection from its members at that time.
“When the IATF approved it, there was no objection, no controversy. The controversy came up again when medical groups made an issue out of it,” he said.
The Palace official, however, insisted that the decision and recent recommendation of the IATF to President Duterte was based on doctors’ advice. He likewise said it was important to open up transportation so people can go to work.
“It was a very difficult decision, it was a very difficult recommendation. But I’d like to assure everyone that doctors were consulted and not all doctors share the view,” he said.
“How can workers go to work if there’s not enough public transport? It’s not as if one side wants to expose the population to the disease intentionally to reopen the economy,” he added.