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Workers exempted from 'no vax, no ride' policy, officials clarify after public outcry

The workforce is exempted from the government's "no vaccination, no ride" policy as they render essential services, officials clarified Tuesday, following a public outcry regarding the measure.

During a virtual briefing with Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said workers unvaccinated against COVID-19 can avail of public transportation on their way to their respective workplaces.

“They are exempted from the 'no vax, no ride' policy. Very clear 'yan, so there should be no reason to doubt or to question the policy… Exempted po ang mga workers natin,” he said.

“They are rendering essential services. Pag hininto mo mga ‘yan, paano gagalaw ang ating mga negosyo? 'Pag walang negosyo, walang ekonomiya, so luckily, exempted ang ating mga workers,” he added.

(They are rendering essential services. If you stop that, how will businesses move? If there are no businesses then the economy will not move, so luckily workers are exempted.)

He was referring to the policy implemented by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) limiting public transportation access to fully vaccinated individuals, which can be proven by either physical or digital copies of vaccine cards issued by accredited agencies.

Exempted from the policy, however, are persons with medical conditions that prevent their full COVID-19 vaccination as shown by a duly-signed medical certificate, and those who will buy essential goods and services.

During the first day of the implementation, a partially vaccinated worker was barred from taking public transportation for her to have her medical exam at work. She even lamented that it was not her fault that her second dose was scheduled next month.

“Kailangan lang siguro ng [There may be a need for a] mass information drive to inform not only the public, but especially the enforcing agencies — mga pulis [the police], taga-DOTr. Alam nila dapat [They should know] that workers are exempted from this 'no vax, no ride policy',” Bello said.

The labor chief said unvaccinated and partially vaccinated workers only need to present their company identification cards for them to be allowed in public transportation.

This was echoed by DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran, who clarified that the policy is not absolute and has exceptions.

Libiran reiterated that essential travel is part of the exemptions, which includes traveling to the respective workplaces, buying essential goods, or applying for licenses, among others.

“[Y]ou need to present proof na ikaw eh talagang doon papunta, gaya ng ID na magpapatunay na ikaw ay empleyado doon, o kaya naman medical appointment, certificate/appointment from the company na may interview or exam ka, or health pass from the barangay that you will obtain essential goods, among others,” she said in a statement.

(You need to present proof of essential travel such as an ID proving you are an employee, a medical appointment, certificate from the company where you have an interview or exam, or health pass from the barangay that you will obtain essential goods.)

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may bring to some of our fellow kababayans, but let us be very clear - we in government have a mandate to faithfully execute and deliver, and that is to duly uphold PUBLIC SAFETY,” Libiran said.

She also noted that the policy is a temporary precautionary measure while Metro Manila is under Alert level 3 or higher. The status was first raised on January 3 and was initially set to last until January 15. This has since been extended until January 31.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the authority of the DOTr in implementing the policy emanates directly from the Administrative Code (EO 292) and indirectly from Republic Act 11332.

Guevarra said EO 292 mandates the agency to adopt policies and measures to provide safe transportation to the public.

Further, he said the policy was also aligned with the ordinances enacted by the cities in the National Capital Region.

According to Guevarra, the policy does not discriminate against unvaccinated individuals as they are still allowed to use public transportation for essential activities.

The no vax, no ride policy is intended to apply only to unvaccinated people who use public transportation for non-essential purposes, such as going to places of leisure or amusement, he said.

“We therefore beg for everyone’s indulgence and cooperation, as we also call on each every Filipino to join hands with us, and heal as one,” said Libiran.  — with a report from Joahna Lei Casilao/KBK/VBL, GMA News