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Rights agency opposes ‘no vax, no ride’ measure

The impending prohibition of unvaccinated individuals from public transport assaults the people’s fundamental rights, the government’s human rights agency said.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement that the plan by the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to ban unvaccinated persons from taking public transport is in danger of being sweeping and overly broad.

“CHR fears that, while there is no direct prohibition on the right to travel with the ‘no vaccine, no ride’ policy in public transport for the unvaccinated, this policy effectively restricts the exercise and enjoyment of fundamental rights,” de Guia said.

DoTr Undersecretary Artemio Tuazon Jr. announced Wednesday that the agency orders that only fully vaccinated individuals, with some exceptions, will be allowed to take public transportation beginning January 17, Monday.

DoTr’s Department Order No. 2022 – 001 shall cover public transportation for individuals who reside, work and travel to and from the National Capital Region, Tuazon said.

Persons with medical conditions that prevent full Covid-19 vaccination shall be asked to present a medical certificate while other unvaccinated individuals out to buy essential goods and services such as food, water, and medicine shall be asked to present barangay health passes or other proofs before boarding public transport, the DoTr said.

The CHR however expressed fear that even with such exemptions, persons may be restricted in accessing essential goods and services for having no or limited access to private vehicles.

The human rights commission explained that ordinary Filipinos continue to rely on public transportation in attaining basic needs, such as for food, work, and accessing health services, including unvaccinated individuals.

“It is not sufficient that the restrictions serve the permissible purposes; they must also be necessary to protect them. Restrictive measures must conform to the principle of proportionality; they must be appropriate to achieve their protective function; they must be the least intrusive instrument amongst those which might achieve the desired result; and they must be proportionate to the interest to be protected,” the CHR said.

In a radio interview Wednesday, a leader of one of the country’s biggest transport groups also opposed the measure, saying public transport were not consulted before DoTr issued the measure.

Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide chairperson Mody Florida told DZRH that jeepney drivers will find it very difficult to check each and every passenger’s eligibility to take public transport. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists denounce Beep card fee increase

SAN PABLO, Laguna—Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) denounced the increase in the price of automated fare collection system (AFCS) cards used in Metro Manila trains, buses and jeepneys now costing P30.00 from the previous P20.00. 

Following the new year announcement of the increase, each new card costing P100 automatically charges P30, leaving the consumer with only P70 credit.

“This is an automatic fee increase that did not go through any public hearing. There is also no explanation in the contract why the private concessionaire is entitled to a fee increase,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

The fee increase is included in the current contract between the government and the private consortium AF Payments Inc. of the Ayala and Metro Pacific groups. 

“It is simply a profit guarantee for private interests. This is an onerous provision in the contract and goes against public policy,” Reyes said, blaming the previous Department of Transportation and Communication for the deal and the current Department of Transportation (DoTr) for its failure to review this provision of the contract.

Reyes said their alliance of progressive groups will ask the DoTr to say for the record if the private concessionaire has paid the government the P800 million transaction fee that it is supposed to pay. 

He revealed that in the private consortium’s current bid offer, it pays government only P278 million as gross availability payment, instead of a one-time P1 billion concession fee. 

“The private concessionaires will pay government P865 million only when beep card transactional volume reaches 750 million per quarter, a very high standard,” Reyes explained.

The activist leader believes that such a high transaction volume can only be reached towards the ninth or 10th year of the contract. 

“If so, this means that the private concessionaires have been profiting from the Beep card business even without paying the government any concession fee. This is another onerous provision in the contract,” he added.

Right off the AFCS contract’s implementation in October 2015, Reyes questioned its four-year renewal clause, asking “Why are the beep cards for MRT and LRT valid only up to December 2019? Because the AFCS private concessionaire plans to issue more expensive Beep cards by 2020.”

“By 2020, fares would have also gone up. Your P100 minimum card purchase may only be good for two rides,” Reyes claimed then.  

Reyes asks the Rodrigo Duterte government through the Department of Justice to look into the AFCS contract, charging it is lopsided in favor of big businesses and disadvantageous to commuters. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)