Public-transport ban on unvaccinated meant to protect all—DOTr

School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings School closings

THE Department of Transportation imposition of a “no vaxx-no-ride” policy on public transport continued to reap criticism on Thursday, especially from labor groups, but the DOTr said that far from being “anti-poor,” it was in fact meant to protect the majority of the population, especially ordinary workers.

The coalition of the country’s largest labor groups slammed the government’s alleged “punitive measures” against people who remain unvaccinated against Covid-19.

Nagkaisa said the government’s movement restriction for the unvaccinated may backfire, causing people to resist getting free Covid-19 jabs.

“Recent moves such as the DILG’s [Department of the Interior and Local Government] order for LGUs [local government units] to list the names of the unvaccinated resemble more a witch-hunt to merely punish and shame people, instead of actually working on providing a systematic pandemic response,”  Nagkaisa said.

Partido Manggagawa (PM), an affiliate of Nagkaisa, hit the DoTr policy barring the unvaccinated from riding public transportation, for being “anti-poor.”

“This is patent discrimination on workers and poor who rely on public transport for mobility and commuting to work,” PM chair Renato Magtubo said in a separate statement.

“In contrast, rich people—vaccinated or not—are free to move around since they have cars to use. These unfair and biased policies disproportionately impact people in the laylayan [marginalized],” he added.

DOTr–We aim to protect all

The “no vaccination, no ride” policy was made to protect ALL—whether vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals—to safeguard those that are most at risk, our health-care system, and our exhausted medical workers amid the recent surge of Covid-19 cases recorded in the country, the DOTr said.

“The policy is for the benefit of the majority and the common good. Hence, we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause the riding public.

It is important to note that the policy only takes effect while Alert Level 3 (or higher) is implemented to stem the surging cases of Covid-19, particularly with the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

“Severe Covid-19 infections caused by non-vaccination result in an overwhelming of cases of hospitalization. The World Health Organization [WHO] has been very CLEAR: while Omicron causes less severe disease than Delta, it remains a dangerous virus, particularly for those who are unvaccinated.”

The agency also warned that if the number of public transport personnel infected with the virus keeps rising, “we might face another shutdown just like what happened last year in the MRT-3, LRT lines, and PNR, as most front-facing passengers were infected with the virus. WE WANT TO PREVENT ANOTHER PUBLIC TRANSPORT SHUTDOWN. We are doing everything we can to maintain and keep our public transport operations safe and running. It will be a much heavy burden for commuters if we experience a repeat of public transport closures.”

Businesses are at risk of a shutdown due to the surge in infections, it noted. “According to the Department of Trade and Industry [DTI], our campaign is all-encompassing. If we do not act now, all industries and business sectors will be severely affected. Either the businesses will minimize workers, cut down on some parts of their business, retrench employees, or shut down to cut down on losses or pay off debts. And this affects not only the business owners but people who will lose their job and all those who depend on them.”

The policy, it said, has legal basis: the Metro Manila Council Resolution last week on the guidelines for unvaccinated individuals. The Resolution prohibits unvaccinated individuals from boarding public transport.

The DOTr said its position does not violate RA 11525, which states that vaccine cards shall not be considered as additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment and other similar government transaction purposes. “Access to public transportation is not among those enumerated in the prohibition. The Administrative Code prevails, which mandates DOTr to provide safe transportation services to the general public.”

Nagkaisa’s plea

Nagkaisa called on the government to put a stop to such “heavy-handed lockdown measures” and replace it with “comprehensive, people-centered, and health-based pandemic response” by consulting the private sector and labor groups.

“This requires more than widespread vaccination but also the employment of more compassionate, free, and accessible health protocol procedures,” Nagkaisa said.

Isko warns anti-vaxxer ralliers

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso has signed an ordinance regulating the mobility of unvaccinated individuals around the city.

“While it is true I agree [with the decision of Metro Manila mayors],  we were the first city that banned the unvaccinated from malls. I think that is a message already,” Moreno said.

The 47-year-old Aksyon Demokratiko presidential bet stressed that they need to impose restrictions on the mobility of those who remain unvaccinated as to prevent the further spread of Covid-19, particularly its highly-contagious Omicron variant.

Meanwhile, Moreno said criminal charges have been filed against four persons who participated in a “No to Vaccination” rally in Liwasang Bonifacio on Tuesday. He said lawbreakers or those who violate Manila’s laws will immediately be punished.

Image credits: Nonoy Lacza