The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and other transport agencies have been ordered to allow stranded passengers, especially those with children, who are returning to their provinces from Metro Manila or vice versa to do so regardless of their vaccination status, as returning home is considered a form of essential travel.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) issued this order to qualify its “no vaccination, no ride” policy in Metro Manila that bars the unvaccinated from taking public transportation as a way of curbing COVID-19 infections.
“The primary rule is—returning home is a form of essential travel,” said Goddes Hope Libiran, DOTr spokesperson.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said he was “fuming” when he learned that children were not allowed to board because their parents were not vaccinated and they did not have the proper documentation.
“My instruction from the very beginning is plain and simple — the ‘no vax, no ride’ policy [implementation should be] as patient and tolerant as possible, but firm,” he said.
Tugade ordered PPA General Manager Jay Santiago to immediately allow the stranded passengers with children to return home to their provinces, provide them with food, assist in the costs of their tickets, and give financial assistance.
Tugade also reiterated his previous directive to all transport sectors to put vaccination stations in strategic places, similar to what the road sector has done at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) since July last year.
“Make sure to continue our vaccination efforts at the PITX. Put similar vaccination facilities in rail stations and in North Harbor,” Tugade ordered.
“I have also ordered the Toll Regulatory Board to consider having vaccination stations at NLEX and other toll roads. This is now being discussed by the TRB with toll operators,” he said.
The PPA on Tuesday said it assisted about 100 passengers bound for Zamboanga who were stranded at the North Harbor Terminal 4 due to the “no vaccination, no ride” policy of the government.
Santiago said the passengers were barred from leaving Monday due to incomplete documentary requirements.
“We were able to help with their condition, but they were not allowed to board,” Santiago said.
Meanwhile, 570 unvaccinated commuters apprehended in Quezon City have received their first dose of COVID-19 jabs since the implementation of the “no vaccination, no ride” policy on Monday.
In a statement Wednesday night, Mayor Joy Belmonte said the city’s law enforcement cluster, led by Task Force Disiplina, the Philippine National Police’s Highway Patrol Group, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, and the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic have conducted joint operations since the new policy limiting the movement of unvaccinated individuals was implemented.
She said commuters unable to present a COVID-19 vaccination card were apprehended and brought to the vaccination site at the Quezon Memorial Circle to receive their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
Belmonte assured the public, however, that unvaccinated individuals who need to acquire essential goods or services, as well as those who have medical conditions that prevent them from getting vaccinated, are exempted from the rule.
Unvaccinated individuals who were hesitant to get inoculated were not forced and were instead sent home and told to get a certification from a licensed physician and their barangay for clearance as proof that they cannot get vaccinated.
Task Force Disiplina Action Officer Deck Pelembergo, meanwhile, appealed to unvaccinated commuters to immediately get inoculated.
Meanwhile, a total of 234 out of 1,300 ambulant vendors, and market vendors and employees who remain unvaccinated and have been identified by local government agencies, received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday.
Belmonte earlier announced that the city government would extend P2,000 to each ambulant vendor, and market vendor and employee as compensation for lost income, if they agree to get inoculated from Jan. 8 to 31.
“We understand that most vendors cannot take a day off due to loss of income that would put food on the family table, so we decided to provide them with an incentive to encourage them to receive COVID-19 shots,” she said.
Under fire for its “no vaccination, no ride” program, the DOTr on Thursday said there was a legal basis for its policy, which took effect on Jan. 17.
The agency said in a statement that it is only implementing the ordinances issued by all local government units in Metro Manila, which are all in line with the Metro Manila Council (MMC) resolution that
prohibits unvaccinated individuals from boarding public transport.
“This MMC Resolution was approved and signed by all Metro Manila mayors and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and is strongly supported by the IATF,” the DOTr said, referring to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.