Amid public uproar on the “No Vaccination, No Ride” policy, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) stressed that the exemptions on the scheme have already been stated in the guidelines even before its implementation.
“Prior to the full implementation of the ‘no vax, no ride’ policy on Monday, Jan. 17, the DOTr has repeatedly emphasized the exemptions through its Department Order (DO) published in newspapers on Jan. 12 and in our press releases, media announcements, and press conferences thereafter,” the DOTr said in a statement on Thursday, Jan. 20.
The order mentioned by the DOTr was its Department Order No. 2022-001 which only allows vaccinated individuals to ride all modes of public utility vehicles (PUVs) to, within, and from the National Capital Region (NCR).
Under the order, those exempted from the policy are the following:
• Persons with medical conditions that prevent their full COVID-19 vaccination as shown by a duly-signed medical certificate with the name and contact details of their doctor
• Persons who will buy essential goods and services, such as but not limited to food, water, medicine, medical devices, public utilities, energy, work, and medical and dental necessities, as shown by a duly issued barangay health pass or other proof to justify travel
“These exemptions provided in the DOTr policy are in line with the IATF Guidelines on those who are allowed to work in essential industries under Alert Level 3,” it added.
Some public and private groups, as well as several lawmakers, have been criticizing the scheme after some unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated workers were barred from riding PUVs even though they are exempted from the policy.
“Why clarify only now? Why wait for hundreds of commuters to suffer first?’” Presidential aspirant Senator Panfilo M .Lacson said on Wednesday, Jan. 19, after Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said workers are exempted from the DOTr policy.
But according to the DOTr, the guidelines, including these exemptions, have already been “cascaded towards enforces on the ground” even before the policy’s full implementation, and were “continuously reiterated during their daily formation and deployment.”
Bello, also on Wednesday, said he sees a reason for the government to apologize for the confusion on the exemptions, adding that there is a need for a massive information drive about the policy.
The DOTr likewise apologized for the inconvenience that this may cause to the riding public, but clarified that the enforcement of the policy is only temporary while Metro Manila is under Alert Level 3 or higher.
The Department also reiterated that the policy was made to protect both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated amid the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
“It creates more inconvenience, and it is even riskier if unvaccinated individuals will contract severe COVID-19 infections or even fatalities, particularly amid the Omicron variant now infecting Filipinos at an alarming rate,” it said.
The policy is also in furtherance of our mandate to provide a safe public transport system for the Filipino people. We should consider that if there is a surge of virus transmission in public transportation, we will be forced to shut it down. And the most affected will be those in the lower-income bracket who compose most public transportation users,” it added.