DOTr clarifies: Unvaccinated, partially vaccinated workers allowed in public transport

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 18) — Workers that have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have yet to complete their inoculation may avail of public transport, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said on Tuesday.

“’Yung pagpunta sa trabaho is considered essential travel. ‘Yung pagbili ng pagkain, tubig, yung mga ganoon po. ‘Yun ang mga exempted natin,” DOTr Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon said during the hearing of the House Committee on Health on the COVID-19 pandemic.

[Translation: Going to work is considered essential travel. Buying food, water, things like those. They’re exempted (from the ban).]

Essential travel is one of two basic exemptions for the unvaccinated or partially unvaccinated in public utility vehicles — the other one being medically incapable of being vaccinated, which should be proven with a medical certificate.

Tuazon said these workers only need to present their company ID or certificate of employment to be allowed to board public utility vehicles.

They must also be working in industries allowed to operate under Alert Level 3, he added.

“Informed naman po ang ating mga enforcers. So kelangan lang nila puntahan ang team leader sa area kung saan sila sinita,” said LTFRB-NCR Director Zona Tamayo when asked what should be done in case enforcers refused to recognize the presented documents.

[Translation: Our enforcers have already been informed about this. Workers just need to go to the team leader in the area where they were questioned.]

The clarification comes a day after the implementation of the DOTr’s no vaccination, no ride policy in Metro Manila.

Tuazon also told CNN Philippines' New Day on Wednesday that even unvaccinated or partially vaccinated commuters who are scheduled for their passport processing or license renewal may take the public transport.

"Right now, we allow people who have an appointment for passports, or renewal of their licenses or franchises, we allow them to board public transportation," he said. "They just have to show that they really have an appointment for that day."

There have been reports of unvaccinated or partially vaccinated commuters being barred from taking public transport even if they are heading to work, which drew flak from some politicians who called the policy discriminatory.

During Tuesday’s Palace briefing, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed regret over these reports.

“Exempted po ang mga workers natin because they are rendering essential services," he explained. "'Pag hininto mo mga 'yan, paano gagalaw ang ating mga negosyo? 'Pag walang negosyo, walang ekonomiya.”

[Translation: Workers are exempted because they are rendering essential services. If you stop them, how will our businesses function? When there’s no business, there’s no economy.]

Still, Tuazon maintained that the policy is necessary to ensure the safety of all, regardless of vaccination status.

He said local authorities can check whether unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individual is being truthful about the purpose of his travel even before taking public transport.

He also emphasized there are already ordinances in place regarding this matter.

CNN Philippines correspondent Tristan Nodalo contributed to this report.