(File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday said workers are exempted from the "no vaccination, no ride" policy.

“They are exempted, our workers because they are rendering essential services. When you stop them, how will our businesses move? When there is no business there is no economy. Luckily, our workers are exempted,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a Palace briefing.

At the same time, Bello urged agencies implementing the policy to start a massive information drive to avoid confusion among the public.

“We just need more massive information drive to inform especially not only the public, but especially the enforcing enforcement agency, the police, DOTr (Department of Transportation) people, they know that workers should be exempted from the no ‘vax, no ride’ policy. More information drive to inform the implementing agencies about this exemption to the general rule of ‘no vax, no ride’ policy. Especially with our workers who are already having a hard time working, you will make it even harder for them to get to work,” the DOLE chief added.

Bello, however, said unvaccinated workers are allowed to report to work but they have to present a negative RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction) test, as required by employers.

Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) also clarified that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated workers in essential industries are exempt from the ‘no vax, no ride’ policy.

In a Viber message on Tuesday, DOTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Libiran said these individuals must present proof that they work in an essential industry such as a company ID or certificate of employment instead of a vaccination card.

“One must show that your work is an ‘essential work’ since our DO (department order) refers to essential goods and services, hence the work must be essential too,” Libiran said.

Under DOTr DO No. 2022 – 001, exemptions to the ‘no vax, no ride’ policy include those with medical conditions that prevent full vaccination and persons who will procure essential goods and services.

She noted that the DOTr defines “essential work” based on guidelines from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF).

Moreover, she said those looking to be exempt from the policy must present proof of their exemptions such as a medical appointment, a certificate or letter from a company they have an appointment with, or a health pass from their barangay allowing them to procure goods and services.

In response to those against the mandatory vaccination policy in public transport, she highlighted the Department of Health’s (DOH) and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) assertions that the unvaccinated are more vulnerable to Covid-19.

“We are not fighting the few. We are protecting the many. We have strongly pushed for this policy because of the continuing danger posed by Covid-19, especially with the rapid transmission of the Omicron variant,” Libiran said.

As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) said 17 public utility jeepneys (PUJ) have so far been issued tickets while 102 passengers were turned over to their respective local government units for violating the policy.

The DOTr, its line agencies, and partners in the national and local government began the enforcement of the “no vax, no ride” policy in public transportation in the NCR on Monday and will remain in effect while the region is under Alert Level 3 or higher. (PNA)