MANILA—Vice-President Leni Robredo said government must make COVID-19 testing and vaccinations more accessible instead of barring the unvaccinated from public transportation.
In an interview aired on ANC “Rundown” on Thursday, Robredo said the “no vax, no ride” policy must not even be considered until all means to get vaccines to the people have been exhausted.
"This conversation cannot even be considered until after government already exhausted all possible means to bring vaccines to the people," Robredo said.
"Ito nga ’yung parati kong sinasabi na we should offer reasonable incentives, we should run a proper communications and behavior change campaign."
Robredo added that government should also try to give incentives to people who get themselves vaccinated against COVID-19.
"As I have said, we have had many vaccine express initiatives where we saw how incentivizing people is very, very favorable insofar as convincing them to have themselves vaccinated," she said.
"Another example, Mike, is when we brought the vaccine express to Capas, Tarlac. And you know, when we were just deciding to bring it to the (indigenous peoples) community there, a lot of people were telling us, we are talking here of the locals. Sinasabi nila na konti ’yung nagpapabakuna, baka dalhin niyo na lang sa iba kasi marami dito na mga Aetas ang ayaw.
"Pero you know when we brought the vaccination there, marami kaming mga incentives na dala, meron kaming mga vitamins, meron kaming mga grocery packs, meron kaming food. Alam mo, dagsa. Kinulang pa kami ng bakuna that we had to return."
Robredo said government must also not discriminate people because of their vaccination status when it comes to the delivery of basic services.
"Government can always do creative means of incentivizing. Pero there is no law that mandates vaccination. Wala tayo nu’n. So we cannot discriminate as far as basic services is concerned," she said.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is implementing a “no vaccination, no ride” policy for public transportation in Metro Manila.
Transport rights groups and human rights advocates have previously expressed their position to the "no vax, no ride" policy, saying that a more organized and more systemic approach is needed to stop the spread of the virus.
Some lawmakers have also urged the transportation department to reconsider its policy, saying they believe that it hurts Filipinos whose livelihoods depend on public transport.
The DOTr has said its policy is meant to protect the unvaccinated from contracting the respiratory disease, and prevent the economy from shutting down.
"If we do not act now, all industries and business sectors will be severely affected," it said.
Meanwhile, Robredo said she lauded the government's efforts to increase the number of vaccination sites by including drugstores and clinics as venues for getting COVID-19 boosters.
" ’Yung sa akin, ’yung pag-a-add ng mga vaccination sites, OK ’yun. Ako, ’yung parati ko nang suggestion is to bring the vaccination down to the barangays, kasi ano talaga e, ang experience namin with our vaccine express and also with our Swab Cab," she said.
" ’Yung experience namin, the more accessible swabbing and vaccination is, mas marami talagang na-eenganyo to submit themselves sa vaccination, to submit themselves sa swabbing.
"Making the vaccinations available in pharmacies, this is a very good move, but something that we could have done many months ago to make it more accessible."
Robredo said transport hubs may also be considered as COVID-19 vaccination sites.
"Siguro sa mga malalapit sa mga transportation hubs, mga terminals, sa mga LRT, MRT stations, baka dapat accessible din ’yung swabbing and vaccination kasi this is where people conglomerate and wala nang necessity for them to miss work," she said.
The country has so far fully inoculated about half of its population, but many areas outside the capital region are lagging behind.