Today, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that 1-meter physical distancing on public transportation will be maintained until President Duterte decides on the matter.
We, the undersigned civil society organizations, call on President Duterte to retain the policy of 1-meter physical distancing in public transport. We believe that the harm that reducing physical distancing poses to commuters undermines its goal of facilitating economic recovery.
Reducing physical distancing to less than one meter, especially at this critical point in our battle against COVID-19, is a dangerous policy. It will lead to a rapid rise of infections. The DOH mentioned in a statement that there will be 600+ more cases daily if distancing rules will be relaxed.
Ultimately, the poor and the working class will bear the brunt of these new infections arising from the reduction of social distancing. We believe that such a policy is anti-worker and anti-poor. From the very beginning of the pandemic, the poor and the working class have been the most badly hit. Dependent on daily wages to put food on the table, they have borne the burden of our country’s economic collapse. Reducing physical distancing only puts their lives at further risk.
Furthermore, reducing physical distancing on public transport will also create an atmosphere of confusion, setting a precedent for establishments and businesses to feel complacent in implementing physical distancing measures. After all, if public transport vehicles are exempted from the one-meter rule, what stops other businesses from demanding that they be given the same privilege?
We call on the DOTr and IATF to instead adopt the following action points:
– Increase the supply of PUVs to accommodate more commuters and prevent overcrowding.
– Allow the functioning of informal modes of public transport such as service contracting.
– Enable safe bicycling by providing active transport infrastructure such as protected bike lanes.
– Allow staggered work hours and adopting work from home arrangements.
Policymakers need to be aware of the importance of sequencing in managing the pandemic: flatten the curve first, then consider the relaxation of social distancing. We emphasize that there is no tradeoff between protecting health and recovering the economy. This policy of reducing physical distancing will only end up further damaging the economy as it harms the health of our workers.
To conclude, facilitating economic recovery is useless if we do not protect the lives of our workers, the backbone of our economy. We call on our fellow Filipinos to support this call to protect our workers and the poor. Rather than making the poor and the working class the sacrificial lamb to recover the economy, we urge the government to practice empathy with those whose lives they are putting at risk and maintain the 1-meter physical distancing rule in the public transportation sector.
Action for Economic Reforms
Alliance of Filipino Workers (AFW)
Alyansa Tigil Mina
Center for Policy Studies and Advocacy on Sustainable Development (The Policy Center)
Coalition Against Trafficking In Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)
Consolidated Council of Health and Allied Professions (CCHAPS-PSLINK)
COVID19 Action Network (CAN)
Federation of Free Workers (FFW)
Health Care Without Harm – SEAsia
Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa (Kalipunan)
Lupus Inspired AdvocacyMedical Action Group (MAG)Move As One CoalitionMove Metro Manila
Nagkaisa Labor Coalition
Partido ng Manggagawa (PM)
Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
Philippine Cancer Society
PUP Office of the Student Regent