MAJORITY of the country’s pillion riders who purchased plastic barriers worth at least P650 each said they could have used the money to buy rice for their families in this trying times and are now wondering who’s really behind the idea that using such a shield could help them prevent catching the dreaded COVID-19 virus.
“We don’t buy the explanation by some officials that using those barriers could stop COVID-19. Where’s the scientific and medical explanation to all of this. Please show it in public,” said JR delos Reyes, a company messenger, who was forced to buy the shield in order to allow a nurse-cousin to ride with him on his way to a private hospital in Metro Manila, in Filipino.
Another delivery man named George said he strongly believed that he and his wife could be fully protected from the virus by wearing a closed jacket, gloves, a face mask and standard helmets. “The sad thing here is we were forced to buy a motorcycle shield for P750 instead of buying some medicines for our kid because we complied with IATF rules,” the man also said in the vernacular.
However, Joint Task Force COVID-19 Shield commander, Lieutenant General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar said they have found an ally in the enforcement of the new motorcycle pillion riding rules in the person of a big group of motorcycle riders who have committed themselves to assist the government in enforcing the new rules and in compelling as many riders to comply with the health safety standard protocol on motorcycle back-riding.
Eleazar said the Riders of the Philippines which is composed of various motorcycle-riding groups from various parts of the country expressed its intention to assist in the enforcement of pillion riding rules as the group welcomed the decision of the National Task Force on COVID-19 to allow motorcycle back-riding without barriers for people living in the same household.
“In appreciation of this effort, our groups will take part in the Operation Habal Watch and report them to avoid the abuse of this decision and to protect the riding public,” the Riders of the Philippines said in a statement.
“Again, we are extending our gratitude and would like to let you know that we are here to work with you for as long as it benefits both sides and does not undermine safety,” it added. The statement was signed by heads of at least 14 motorcycle rider groups from Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The group appealed to the IATF not to limit the use of head safety gear to full face helmets but Eleazar clarified that under the guideline approved by the NTF on COVID-19, motorcycle riders and back-riders are required to use at least helmets with full face visor that must be worn all the time with face masks by the riders and back-riders.
Philippine National Police chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa has already instructed all police commanders to make sure that the new rules on motorcycle back-riding are disseminated to the PNP personnel manning the Quarantine Control Points (QCPs) across the country.
Lt. Gen. Eleazar thanked the motorcycle groups for their gesture of support to the government.
“The fight against COVID-19 cannot be won by the government alone. The government needs all the assistance and cooperation of as many people and groups for the protection of everybody, for the protection of our country. We are elated that big groups like the Riders of the Philippines have put their words into action by lending their help in one of the important measures to protect the public from the coronavirus. We really appreciate it,” he said.
The JTF COVID Shield earlier recommended the easing of restrictions on pillion riding for riders and back-riders living in the same house to the NTF on COVID-19 which is chaired by Defense chief Delfin N. Lorezana. Department of Interior and Local Government Sec. Eduardo M. Año is the NTF’s vice-chairman.
Under the new rules, in order to be allowed to pass the QCPs and random checkpoints by the PNP Highway Patrol Group, the riders and back-riders must present documents such as identification cards and barangay certificates to attest that they are living in the same house.
The back-riders must also be included in the list of the Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APORs), although the rider may or may not be APOR for as long as the travel is intended to transport and fetch APORs to their workplaces and back home, particularly the medical front-liners.
Eleazar however, clarified that the use of motorcycle barriers is required for riders and back-riders who are not living in the same house, adding that the move is to ensure that the new guideline on pillion riding will not be abused especially by those who would attempt to use their motorcycles for rent.
The new rules on pillion riding is being implemented at the areas under the General Community Quarantine like Metro Manila and nearby provinces while Local Government Units in areas under the Modified GCQ are given the authority to either adapt the same rules or craft and implement their own motorcycle pillion riding rules tailored-fit on their respective locality.
Eleazar explained that the approval of the new motorcycle back-riding rules is actually part of the gradual transition being implemented by the national government to facilitate the transportation for those who are exempted from the community quarantine amid limited operations of mass transport system and Public Utility Vehicles.