Govt. to allow back riding for couples starting July 10, but officials differ on guidelines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 9) — Back riding or pillion riding on motorcycles for couples who live together will be allowed starting Friday, July 10, provided there is a protective shield between the riders, officials said Thursday.

Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Diseases spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. told CNN Philippines in a text message earlier Thursday that the new policy will be effective on Saturday. In his press briefing later in the day, he said it will start on Friday.

He explained that the policy is subject to the approval of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, which he said is “forthcoming tomorrow.”

Only for married couples?

Roque stressed that only married spouses are allowed to ride together, citing as his sources Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, IATF vice chair, and Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., National Task Force chief implementer.

"Sa ngayon po talaga ang naparating sa akin ni Secretary Año at Secretary Galvez, limitado po sa mga mag-asawa," Roque told reporters during his presser.

[Translation: For now, what Secretary Año and Secretary Galvez have relayed to me is that back riding is only allowed for married couples.]

When asked if siblings and live-in partners are covered by the policy, Roque replied: “Hindi pa rin po, kasi ang clamor naman po ay para sa mag-asawa initially,” Roque added.

[Translation: No, because initially the clamor is to allow married couples.]

However, Año later clarified that cohabiting couples are permitted to ride. He added that the National Task Force may also consider allowing live-in partners from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community to back ride.

"'Yun muna, magstart sa married couple, common-law husband and wife, mga live-in partners," he told CNN Philippines' News Night.

[Translation: We'll start first with married couples, common-law husband and wife, and live-in partners]

Protective shield

The barrier for the motorcycle could be like the prototype plastic shield proposed by Bohol Governor Arthur Yap, Roque said.

“May handle sa side nung barrier at lalagpas sa ulo niya ‘yung barrier para sigurado na walang laway na tatalsik,” Año said separately.

[Translation: The barrier is not higher than the driver, and has a handle that a passenger can hold on to. This is ensure no saliva droplets are spread.]

Couples must also wear face masks, helmets and observe the speed limits, the officials added.

Present proof

Año said married couples will be asked to present IDs or marriage certificates at quarantine control points or to law enforcers, while common-law partners must show documents proving they share the same address.

"There must be a proof somewhere, probably ang ID na lang, may address sa ID nila (the ID with their address) and they are living in the same address," he said. "They can actually get a certificate from the barangay that they are living in that particular house."

Those who fail to comply with these requirements will be punished in accordance with applicable rules and regulations, he added.

Since March, local officials have been urging policy makers on COVID-19 response to reconsider its no back-riding policy, which they enforced to keep people away from the virus.

The task force has previously rejected the requests, citing issues on safety and enforcement.