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‘No vax, no ride’ policy: Fine-tune implementation to ease citizens’ pain points

Editorial

One week after the start of its implementation last Jan. 17 – and amid criticism of its adverse effects — the government’s “no vax, no ride” policy is undergoing closer scrutiny.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) cited the rationale for this policy: “We are doing everything we can to maintain and keep our public transport operations safe and running. It will be a much heavy burden for commuters if we experience a repeat of public transport closures.”

Recall that the DOTR’s Department Order on the “no vax, no ride” policy was issued to implement the Metro Manila mayors’ resolution — later backed up by local ordinances — to restrict unvaccinated persons from leaving their homes. They were enforcing President Duterte’s order that aimed at curbing the rapid surge in COVID-19 infections.

Within the first few days of implementation, apparent flaws in implementing this policy have surfaced.

Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he believed “there is a reason to apologize to the public” as he stressed the need for the government to mount a “massive informative drive.” He observed that the implementers — in their enthusiasm to protect the public — overlooked that workers are exempted from this policy. He specified the case of a woman worker who was crying in an interview by a television news reporter “because she was not allowed to ride public transport since she received only one vaccine dose.”

Another common bone of contention is what constitutes “essential activities.”

Last Jan. 20, the DOTR issued a statement that included “work” in its list of essential activities that unvaccinated persons would be allowed to perform aside from procuring essential goods and supplies, “such as but not limited to food, water, medicine, medical devices, public utilities, energy, work, and medical and dental necessities, including getting vaccinated.”

On the same day, it was reported on television news that Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade ordered the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager to ensure the immediate embarkation of about a hundred stranded travelers at the Manila North who had been disallowed from taking inter-island vessels that would bring them home to their provinces.

This prompted the news anchor to inquire from the field reporter if this meant that, henceforth, going home to the province would also be deemed as an essential activity not covered by the prohibition. A quick perusal of Philippine Airlines’ website shows that since the earlier days of the pandemic, “locally stranded individuals” have always been permitted to “return to their place of residence/home origin.”

Government’s earnest efforts to curb the pandemic need to be moderated by an overarching concern for the pain points experienced by the citizenry. Well-intentioned policies could produce unintended consequences — such as those that were noted in the first week of the “no vax, no ride” policy. Firmness in law enforcement tempered with fairness and compassion would go a long way in reassuring the citizenry that the government is on their side.

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Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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