The Department of Labor and Transportation (DOLE) has said that workers with proper identification can use public transportation in Metro Manila. The news comes as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) begins enforcing its "no vaccine, no ride" policy in the nation's capital.
There has been significant resistance to the policy, particularly from several lawmakers and human rights groups. Some have stated that the government's recent actions have unduly deprived unvaccinated persons of essential services, including public transportation.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday clarified its position on the matter. Bello claimed that unvaccinated employees working onsite in Metro Manila had "always been exempted" from the DOTr's restrictions.
That could be because employers have required unvaccinated employees to regularly submit negative results from reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) COVID-19 testing. However, these tests come at the worker's expense, which adds up to significant monetary loss over time.
Our workers are exempted because they are rendering essential services. If you stop them, how can our businesses flourish? If there are no businesses, there’s no economy.
According to Bello, unvaccinated workers only need to show their identification cards to gain entry to Metro Manila's public transportation network. Bello also added that DOLE is in the process of informing the implementing agencies of the worker exemption.
In response, DOTr spokesperson Goddes Libiran stated that not all unvaccinated workers are exempt from the policy. Libiran added that only employees in essential industries are allowed on public transit.
For now, the public will have to wait on a final decision between these government agencies. The public transport ban on unvaccinated individuals is still in effect and covers land, rail, air, and sea-based forms of transport going in and out of Metro Manila. Whichever way you slice it, it looks like many folks without the vaccine will have to stay home for now.