Duque says he prefers 1-meter physical distance in public transportation

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10


Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — The country's top health official is now speaking up, saying he prefers a one-meter distance between passengers in public transportation.

"Sinusuportahan po natin ang one-meter distancing, kagaya ng sinabi ng Kalihim Año," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said at an open forum on Wednesday, where he and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año were asked about the controversial policy that reduced the physical distance requirement between public transport passengers to less than one meter.

[Translation: I support the one-meter distancing, like Secretary Año.]

Duque and Año were at the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the government and several agencies to further expand the "BIDA ang May Disiplina" COVID-19 awareness campaign.

Año said his department was standing by the one-meter distance as it follows the minimum health standard.

"Sa parte ng DILG dapat...manindigan na dapat susunod tayo sa minimum health standard na one meter. Para kasi akin puwede natin buksan ang ekonomiya para tumakbo, pero para sa akin non-negotiable na isasakripisyo natin ang one-meter distance," he said.

[Translation: For the DILG...we stand by the one meter which is the minimum health standard. For me, we can open the economy but to sacrifice the one-meter distance is non-negotiable.]

In a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night, Duque revealed he was not present at the IATF meeting which discussed the easing of physical distancing measures in public transport, but he did not state his stand on the issue.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said DOH representatives were there and did not offer any objection.

From the one-meter distance recommended by the World Health Organization, the Transportation Department on Monday reduced the distance between commuters inside mass transit to 0.75 meter to accommodate more riders. The distance will then be further reduced to 0.5 meter by September 28, and will decrease to 0.3 meter by October 12.

The IATF had vowed to review and reassess the policy after a physician's group earlier warned of a possible rise in COVID-19 transmission due to the easing of distancing rules.

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Wednesday, Roque said the COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force has crafted its fresh recommendations on the much-debated transport protocol, with the chief executive expected to review and decide "no later than" Thursday.

Roque did not provide further details regarding the IATF's final recommendation, which he said was a result of Tuesday's six-hour meeting among officials and health experts. However, he underscored that the task force's report was based on science.

Both Duque and Año also said they would not preempt the President's decision.