The Philippine government on Jan. 12 imposed a “no vaccine, no ride” policy on public transportation in the country’s capital Metro Manila, following President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to arrest unvaccinated individuals who violate stay-at-home orders.
The government had earlier placed Metro Manila, a region with a population of over 13 million, under Alert Level 3 until the end of January. The country has seen a surge in the number of coronavirus cases, with 37,207 new cases reported on Friday.
The Philippines’ Department of Transportation said the policy, which takes effect on Jan. 17, will restrict access to public transportation in the capital region to those who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, state media Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported.
The policy follows Duterte’s order to arrest unvaccinated people who failed to comply with stay-at-home orders.
Duterte claimed on Jan. 5 that there is a “high chance” that anyone who has not been vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the coronavirus, will “die” if infected. He added that vaccines will provide some level of protection against the CCP virus.
“I’m now giving orders to the [village chiefs] to look for those persons who are not vaccinated and just would request them or order them, if you may, to stay put,” Duterte said in a pre-recorded public address.
“And if he refuses, he goes out of the house and goes around in the community or maybe wherever [he goes], he can be restrained. If he refuses then the [official] is empowered to arrest the recalcitrant persons,” he added.
Under the “no vaccine, no ride” policy, passengers will be required to show proof of vaccination before boarding public buses, jeepneys, trains, and other public transport in Metro Manila.
Unvaccinated individuals with underlying medical conditions, as well as those who travel to obtain essential goods and services or to go to vaccination sites with official permission, will be exempt from the policy.
Butch Olano of Amnesty International Philippines condemned the government’s policy of restricting citizens’ freedom of movement and criticized Duterte’s order to arrest unvaccinated people, saying that “nobody should be imprisoned for being unvaccinated.”
In a statement, Olano said the government’s restrictions “would only further erode trust in the government” as they burden “millions of Filipinos” who are working in low-wage jobs or unemployed as a result of the pandemic.
“The way out of this pandemic is not to impose unacceptably disproportionate restrictions and punishment on those who are unvaccinated,” he said.
The Department of Transportation on Jan. 13 defended the policy imposed on public transportation in the capital region, stating that it was necessary to protect public health and avert the capital’s economic collapse.
“If we do not act now, all industries and business sectors will be severely affected. Either the businesses will minimize workers, cut down on some parts of their business, retrench employees, or shut down to cut down on losses or pay off debts,” it said.
Mimi Nguyen Ly contributed to this report.