MANILA (UPDATE 2) - Couples may now travel on the same motorcycle beginning Friday as government allowed back-riding, so long as a protective shield in between the rider and the passenger is mounted.
But while officials agree that married couples are among those allowed in the new policy that will be implemented nationwide in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ, they issued conflicting statements as regards non-married partners.
Secretary Eduardo Año of the Department of the Interior and Local Government said motorcycle backriding is only allowed for couples, regardless of whether they are married or living together.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, on the hand, said the policy is only for married couples.
“Living in the same household, whether they are married, or they are common-law husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend but they are living in the same household,” Año said.
During random checks, couples may show their IDs as proof that they bear the same surname or address. He said there are so many ways to prove that couples live in the same household.
But in a Palace press briefing, Roque said, "Itong back-riding po ay para lamang sa mga mag-asawa."
(Back-riding is only for married couples.)
Other than an ID card, the motorcycle-riding couple may also show a copy of their marriage certificate, said Roque.
ABS-CBN News sought Año's clarification on the conflicting remarks, but has yet to receive a response.
In an interview earlier Thursday on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Año said, “Simula bukas, papayagan na natin 'yung back-riding para sa mga couple at 'yung prototype model na isinubmit ni (Bohol) Gov. Art Yap ay approved na ‘yan ng NTF (National Task Force).”
(Starting tomorrow, we are allowing back-riding for couples. The prototype model submitted by Gov. Art Yap is already approved by the NTF.)
The task force though is still accepting submissions for other designs and proposals.
“Meron naman tayong TWG (Technical Working Group) na sumusuri d'yan. At kaagad-agad namang kung ito naman ay safe para sa travel at talagang may barrier in between the rider and the passenger para hindi magkaraoon ng hawaan ng COVID ay ia-approve din naman kaagad 'yan,” Año said.
The protective shield should cover past the head. It also has handles attached to its poles, he said.
Both passenger and the rider should still wear face masks and helmets.
“Maganda ito sapagkat talagang protektado 'yung passenger. Pero s'yempre, kailangan dito ang pag-iingat sa pagda-drive. Dapat susunod talaga tayo sa speed limit. At saka, kakaibang panahon ito. Nabago natin configuration ng motorsiklo. Dapat dobleng pag-iingat sa pagda-drive,” Año said.
(This is good because the passenger is really protected. But of course, drivers need to be careful. We should follow the speed limit. These are different times. The configuration of motorcycles have been changed. There should be extra-care when driving.)
Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, said specific guidelines being crafted in the implementation of the motorcycle back-riding policy will focus on health and safety of the riders, and ensuring that "those who would dare to pretend that they are couple."
“Meron naman tayong National IATF guidelines. Pag ‘di sila sumunod d'yan, violation ng EO 112 at marami pang kaukulang kaso pwedeng i-apply dyan,” Año said.
(We have National IATF guidelines. If they don't follow those, that's in violation of EO 112 and many other charges may be applied.)
The government's inter-agency task force on pandemic response has yet to issue a written resolution on the new policy, which was adopted amid requests from the public and other sectors in light of problems on public transportation.
-- with a report from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News