MANILA, Philippines — Motorcycle back-riding is no longer restricted to romantic partners in areas under modified enhanced community quarantine, though barriers separating both riders on privately-owned motorcycles, which cyclists' groups warned could be dangerous, are still required, the government's quarantine enforcers said Tuesday.
According to Police Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, commander of the Joint Task Force COVID Shield, any medical frontline or essential worker may now pillion-ride, a decision that the coronavirus task force expects will "address the transportation concerns of people who would be allowed to go out and work."
As it stands, employees and even healthcare frontliners are still being made to go to work despite the transportation department's suspension of most of its services, leaving commuters without many options in the middle of a pandemic all over again.
“Since public transportation is not allowed in Metro Manila and the four provinces under MECQ from August 4 to August 18, motorcycle back-riding will be an essential mode of transportation to ensure that no frontliners and other essential workers would be stranded as they go out to report to work and on their way back home,” said Eleazar.
Towards the end of the general community quarantine, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield strictly enforced the rule that only romantic partners living together would be allowed to back-ride, while other relatives also living together were prohibited from doing so.
This was put to a stop once MECQ was declared, but not before a few others were sent to jail for being "disrespectful" to apprehending officers, and others were "accosted" for back-riding with other relatives they lived with who were not their romantic partners.
The Move as One transport coalition, a civil society organization of commuters and advocates, earlier said that the shuttles being provided by the government were not enough to supply droves of commuters still in need of transportation options amid the newly-announced MECQ.
'Unauthorized riders allowed to transport workers, frontliners but not for a fee'
Eleazar highlighted that "all motorcycle driver and passenger must present to the policemen manning the Quarantine Control Points an identification card and other documents attesting that they are essential workers and APOR and that the travel is work-related," while unauthorized drivers may be allowed through only "if their purpose is to transport and fetch medical frontliners and other essential workers."
In a separate statement on Tuesday, Police Maj. Gen. Emmanuel Licup, who serves as PNP Director for Operations and vice commander of the JTF COVID Shield, also warned against transporting medical frontliners and other authorized persons for a fee.
“This is actually another condition set. They can't charge for their services, they can't have their services rented or hired so they can fetch or transport authorized persons outside residences who are on the way to work or going back home,” he said in Filipino.
Eleazar also advised motorcycle riders to be courteous and respectful in explaining the purpose of their travel to policemen in order to prevent arguments and other unnecessary confrontations with the law enforcers manning the checkpoints.
The task force also said that the "installed barrier will serve as a justification for the motorcycle drivers not to be penalized when they are checked at the border control points and random checkpoints."
Police have been strongly urged to practice maximum tolerance when dealing with people at checkpoints, he added.
“[Riders] also have to show proof that their intention for their travel is to fetch a medical frontliner and other APOR, or, that they are already on their way back home after transporting them…Our police are kind and all we need is a good explanation because our police also have a mandate to follow,” Eleazar said in Filipino.
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