CHR to DOTr: Revisit ban on seniors, pregnant women in MRT, LRT during GCQ
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Friday urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to revisit the ban on the elderly and pregnant women from riding the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transits (LRT) lines when a general community quarantine (GCQ) is enforced in Metro Manila.
“We appeal to the Department of Transportation to revisit this policy,” CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said in a statement, adding that the ban could be discriminatory.
The ban on the elderly and pregnant women from riding the MRT and LRT lines during a GCQ was based on the guidelines from the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases for areas under GCQ.
The guidelines include requiring senior citizens to remain at home at all times “except when indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in permitted industries and offices.” The same goes for those aged below 20 years old and pregnant women, although the exceptions are applicable only to trains.
Dumpit noted that the MRT and LRT rail lines are major transportation options for the commuting public in Metro Manila and banning the elderly and pregnant women from riding these trains may restrict their ability to access essential goods and services or go to work.
Dumpit said that while the CHR understands the premise of the ban, it is important that the government think of the most appropriate response that will not disregard the needs of different sectors, especially the marginalized.
She added that those who will be affected by the ban will only avail of other modes of public transportation.
“This also exposes [them] to the commuting crowd, and negates the purpose of the ban. The ban only limits their options,” said Dumpit.
Further, the ban also sends the message that it is acceptable to restrict the elderly and pregnant women from accessing public transportation, according to the CHR Commissioner.
“There is no telling how this could later result in individually-imposed restrictions, such as by tricycle, jeepney, and bus operators and drivers. This policy, as benign as its justification may be, may result in individual acts of discrimination,” she said.
Instead of the total ban on senior citizens and pregnant women, Dumpit said the strict implementation of physical distancing and hygiene protocols in the MRT and LRT lines is sufficient to lower their risk of infection.
She said the CHR also recommends the designation of additional separate train cars for senior citizens and pregnant women, and the strict implementation of priority lanes to lessen their waiting time and risk of exposure to crowds.
“We submit these recommendations to complement our position and to reiterate that older persons should be allowed to go out of their homes, subject to appropriate guidelines, under the GCQ protocols,” she added.
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