VAX CHECK. An Inter-Agency Council for Traffic officer checks the vaccination cards of passengers inside a bus as part of the "no vax, no ride policy" along Mindanao Avenue, Quezon City on Jan. 20, 2022. The Department of Transportation on Monday reiterated that the policy is "legally valid" and is necessary to help "maintain and preserve safe travel". (PNA photo by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

MANILA – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Monday reiterated that the “no vaccine, no ride” policy in public transportation is “legally valid” and necessary to help "maintain and preserve safe travel".

In response to a statement from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) questioning its legality, the DOTr said it has the authority to issue such policies “under pertinent laws and regulations”.

“Remember that the so-called right to ride needs to be balanced with our responsibility as transport regulator to maintain and preserve safe travel,” the DOTr said in a statement.

The policy is limited to the National Capital Region (NCR) and would only be implemented while the region is under Alert Level 3 or higher.

“Once we scale down to Alert Level 2, this policy shall automatically be lifted,” the statement read.

It echoed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s statement that “the state has the power to regulate the movement of unvaccinated persons if it deems that such regulation is in the interest of public health or public safety.”

“The Resolution, which is likewise in line with related IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) resolutions, prohibits unvaccinated individuals from boarding public transport, subject to exceptions,” it added.

The policy does not violate Republic Act 11525 which states that vaccine cards shall not be considered as an additional mandatory requirement for educational, employment, and other similar transaction purposes, the department said.

“Access to public transportation is not among those enumerated in the prohibition,” the DOTr said.

The vaccine policy, it said, is “not absolute” and has exceptions for those with medical reasons, those who have proof that they need to acquire necessary goods and services, and those who work in essential industries.

On Friday, the IBP said it “views with concern” the legal implications of government policies affecting unvaccinated persons as they are “treated in a manner that appears in violation of their constitutional rights”.

While vaccination “remains the primary scientific way out of this Covid-19 pandemic,” it questioned whether individuals can be legally compelled to be vaccinated, whether the “no vaccine, no ride” policy is legal, and whether LGUs can issue ordinances that enforce it. (PNA)