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DOTr reiterates legality of ‘no vax, no ride’ policy

Richmond Mercurio - The Philippine Star
DOTr reiterates legality of âno vax, no rideâ policy
Commuters wait for public utility buses along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City as the full implementation of the "no vaccine, no ride" policy begins on Monday, Jan. 17, 2021.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has reiterated its position on the legality of its “no vaccination, no ride” policy following concerns raised by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

In a statement yesterday, the DOTr said the policy which it started implementing last week is “legally valid,” as it noted that it has the authority to issue the same under pertinent laws and regulations.

“It should be clear that the DOTr, in issuing the policy, is implementing the ordinances issued by all local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila, which are all in line with the Metro Manila Council (MMC) resolution on the mobility of unvaccinated individuals,” the agency said.

“The resolution, which is likewise in line with related IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) resolutions, prohibits unvaccinated individuals from boarding public transport, subject to exceptions,” it added.

In its legal opinion, the Department of Justice has made it clear that the resolution from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the MMC, with its corresponding LGU ordinances, is a valid exercise of police power under the Local Government Code, according to the DOTr.

“Considering that the DOTr’s order implements these ordinances, then the same is likewise legally valid,” the DOTr said.

The agency added that the policy does not violate Republic Act 11525, which states that vaccine cards shall not be considered as additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment and other similar government transaction purposes.

Access to public transportation is not among those enumerated in the prohibition, according to the DOTr.

“Remember that the so-called right to ride needs to be balanced with our responsibility as transport regulator to maintain and preserve safe travel,” it said.

“Further, please note that the no vaccination, no ride policy is not absolute – it has exceptions,” it added, emphasizing that unvaccinated individuals are still allowed to travel by using other means aside from public transport.

In addition, the policy’s coverage is only in the National Capital Region (NCR), given its high vaccination rate, according to the DOTr.

“It is also not perpetual – it shall only be implemented while the NCR is under Alert Level 3 or higher. Once we scale down to Alert Level 2, this policy shall automatically be lifted,” it said.

Over the weekend, the IBP urged the government to “take a second hard look” at its policies that restrict the movements of unvaccinated people, which raise legal questions, such as the “no vaccination, no ride” policy.

Dialogue with DOLE

As this developed, workers are seeking a dialogue with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to resolve once and for all the controversial “no vaccination, no ride” policy.

Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) chair Renato Magtubo called on Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to heed the workers’ call for a dialogue to discuss their urgent demands.

“A planned dialogue between DOLE officials and Nagkaisa labor coalition leaders has long been delayed. Instead of social dialogue, the government is exercising social distancing with labor groups,” Magtubo said in a statement.

He added that workers welcomed the resumption of the labor inspections to ensure compliance with labor standards and enforcement of occupational safety and health protocols.

For the labor group leader, labor inspection is necessary, especially during the pandemic, since erring employers have “weaponized” COVID-19 to abuse workers.

Magtubo, however, said the DOLE should also address other concerns of workers, including the “no vaccination, no ride” policy.

Bello had previously apologized for the chaos over the contentious policy.

“Confusion has arisen over these issues because of lack of social dialogue, among others,” Magtubo said.

“These policies are patent discrimination against workers and poor. In contrast, rich people – vaccinated or not – are free to move around since they have cars to use. These unfair and biased policies disproportionately impact people on the laylayan (fringes of society),” he added.

Few applications

Meanwhile, only a few displaced workers have expressed their intention to seek cash assistance from the government, according to the DOLE.

At a virtual briefing, Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique Tutay reported that the DOLE has received few applications on the first day of COVID Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP) 2022 rollout yesterday.

“So far, our online system received application from 116 affected establishment with more than 1,223 workers,” Tutay said.

There were also individual applicants.

As of last Sunday, Tutay said the DOLE has recorded 25,855 workers who were affected by permanent closure, retrenchment and temporary closure of establishment following the declaration of Alert Level 3 in their respective areas.

She added that the number of affected workers could still go up as more areas nationwide were placed under Alert Level 3 or Alert Level 4 due to the widespread transmission of COVID-19.

The DOLE official noted that all those workers affected by the declaration of Alert Level 3 or higher are eligible to apply for CAMP benefit regardless of their employment status.

The DOLE estimated that about 200,000 displaced workers nationwide shall benefit from the implementation of CAMP 2022 with its allocated budget of P1 billion.

Under the program, displaced workers will receive a one-time cash grant of P5,000.

All sectors, including from education and construction, may also avail themselves of the cash benefit, according to Tutay.

Workers affected by flexible work arrangements are not covered by the program because they still have an income.

P11.8 B in SRA

The national government has released a total of P11.8 billion in social risk allowances (SRAs) and other benefits for medical frontliners, even as the House of Representatives approved a bill that will grant such continuing benefits to health care workers (HCWs).

Department of Budget and Management-Budget and Management Bureau director Jane Abella told the House appropriations committee, chaired by ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Go Yap, that they have released the amount for HCWs.

At the same time, the Yap committee gave its green light to a proposal that will grant mandatory continuing benefits to HCWs in public and private hospitals, including barangay health workers, during the pandemic and in future public health emergencies.

The bill, co-authored by Reps. LRay Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, Alfred Vargas (Quezon City), Joy Myra Tambunting (Parañaque) and Angelica Natasha Co (BHW party-list), also funds the implementation of the measure.

Under the proposed Public Health Emergency Benefits for Health Workers Act, an SRA must be granted for all HCWs for every month of service during the state of public health emergency based on their risk exposure categories.

Those deployed in low-risk areas will be given at least P3,000 monthly, at least P6,000 per month for those in medium risk areas and at least P9,000 monthly for those in high-risk areas.

Meanwhile, amid the exodus of nurses seeking greener pastures abroad, registered nurses who just passed the board and have decided to join government should be enjoying at least P35,000 in monthly salary, as per the new Salary Standardization Law (SSL) 5.

Under Republic Act 11466 (SSL 5), their compensation under Nurse I category (Salary Grade or SG 15) in government hospitals – both in national and LGU health care facilities – have been adjusted to P35,097 monthly.

The new law (RA 11466) signed by President Duterte in January 2020 takes effect this month. – Mayen Jaymalin, Delon Porcalla

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