MANILA - Mobility advocacy group "AltMobility PH" said on Wednesday that government should change its "no vaccination, no ride" policy for public transportation in Metro Manila.
AltMobility PH Director Ira Cruz said a more organized and more systemic approach was needed to stop the spread of the virus, as the new policy supposedly discriminated against public transport users.
"You're discriminating the movement of people who take public transportation," he said. "What about those in private vehicles? How come they're allowed to go around the city without any checks?"
Earlier on Wednesday, the Department of Transportation ordered the implementation of the "no vaccination, no ride" policy while the National Campital Region remained under COVID-19 Alert Level 3.
Riders will be required to show a physical or digital copy of their vaccination certificate with a valid government ID before being allowed on public transport.
But Cruz said the new rule was being implemented without other issues being addressed first, such as access to COVID-19 vaccines and problems with contact tracing.
"Is it really easy for people to get vaccinated? We still hear stories of people spending an entire day at a vaccination site to get vaccinated," Cruz said.
"Is there a proper coordinated contact tracing system? I traveled recently towards the end of the year and I had to download Traze, which is a DOTr contact tracing solution. DOTr runs our MRTs and they're using StaySafe. You have cities like Pasig with PasigPass, you have cities like Valenzuela with ValTrace, and none of these things are coordinated."
The DOTr said the following would be exempted from the "no vaccination, no ride" policy:
• 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.
But Cruz expressed doubt about whether these exemptions would be enforced properly. He added that the policy may instead hinder the unvaccinated from getting inoculated against COVID-19 in the first place.
"That's a very wide net," he said. "That's casting a very wide net. I can just say 'you know what, I want to buy water.' And who's to say I won't pass by my friend's house or the mall afterward?"
The AltMobility PH director called on cabinet members to ask President Rodrigo Duterte to reconsider the new policy, which will take effect immediately after its publication on the Office Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.
For his part, vice-presidential aspirant Walden Bello described the no vax, no ride policy as "draconian and stupid", adding that the unvaccinated should be given special buses.
"Yes, vaxx certificates should be checked, but segregation, not repression is the answer, as in the case of restaurants. Unvaccinated people should be able to ride buses and public transportation specifically designated for them, just as in restaurants," he said in a statement.
"There is already a negative incentive here, since unvaxxed people have to wait longer for special buses, but it is not draconian and repressive. More broadly, financial incentives like a P1000 award for complete vaccination are preferable to draconian methods, which often don't work."
Duterte earlier warned that unvaccinated Filipinos could be arrested if they refused to follow stay-at-home orders.