Interior Secretary Eduardo Año on Tuesday said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) released the operational guidelines on reduced physical distancing in public transport without consulting health experts.
Interviewed on Dobol B sa News TV, Año said the regulation, implemented by DOTr on Monday, was not approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.
"Actually pinag-aralan ko ring mabuti kung paano nangyari. Noon kasing September 7, nagkaroon ng presentation si Secretary Chua ng NEDA at doon sinabi ni Secretary Chua 'yung kaniyang recommendation, which is actually na-adapt ng IATF... adapt and continuously update the latest health standards and best practices in consultation with health sectors," he explained.
"Importante doon in consultation with health sectors. Kaya lang ang nangyari, nagpalabas ng operational guidelines 'yung DOTr nang wala namang consultation sa health experts. Naglabas na sila ng 0.75 [meter], 0.50, 0.3... hindi 'yan dumaan sa IATF," Año said.
Año said IATF officials would meet later in the day to discuss the matter. He is hoping that the DOTr will revoke their order on the optimization of physical distancing for commuters.
"I hope so. Because first, wala naman talaga 'yang approval ng IATF.. Dapat nakipag-usap muna sila sa health experts para malinaw talaga ano ba epekto niyan," he said.
A copy of the 69th IATF Minutes of the Meeting obtained by GMA News Online, however, showed that the inter-agency body indeed approved the proposal to reduce passenger social distancing requirements.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua, and Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Joselito Delizo Bautista supported the DOTr proposal.
“Upon motion duly seconded, the body approved the proposal,” the IATF minutes of the meeting said.
In a briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III noted that based on a study by the Health Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19, decreasing social distancing restrictions could increase the country’s COVID-19 death rate.
Duque mentioned that he was not present when a decision was made on decreasing the distance from one meter to 0.75 meter.
According to DOTr chief Arthur Tugade, the distance will further be reduced to 0.5 meter after two weeks and to 0.3 meter after another two weeks.
Año previously said he prefers providing more transport vehicles than reducing the distance among commuters.
The DOTr had earlier said its decision to reduce physical distancing in public transportation was based on scientific study. —with Ted Cordero/KBK, GMA News