Roque contradicts Año: IATF okayed reduced physical distancing in PUVs
MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) move to reduce physical distancing among passengers in public transportation, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque insisted Tuesday.
“That was approved by the IATF. I heard it myself in the IATF meeting and no one objected,” Roque, who also serves as IATF’s mouthpiece, said in a televised Palace press briefing.
“Ang punto naman ng DOTr, and I raised this to the President, in fairness to the DOTr, it was approved by the entire IATF because it came after the report of NEDA Secretary Chua showing through data how you cannot reopen the economy without increasing the access to public transportation,” he added.
Roque’s remarks come after Interior Secretary Eduardo Año announced that the DOTr directive was issued without health experts’ consultation as well as approval from the multi-agency task force.
In a radio interview Tuesday morning, Año, concurrently vice-chair of the IATF, said the task force only greenlighted the recommendation to update the latest COVID-19 practices in consultation with medical experts.
Last week, DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said the IATF and the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) allowed the proposal to decrease physical distancing inside public utility vehicles (PUVs) to 0.75 meters from one meter, which is recommended by the World Health Organization.
The new physical distancing rule was implemented on Monday, Sept. 14.
In a Malacañang meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who chairs the IATF, raised the concerns of medical experts against reducing physical distancing in public transport.
Duque cited the study of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 that shortening the required distance between passengers may result in 686 additional daily coronavirus infections.
But Roque, who was also present in the meeting, said the DOH did not object to the decision to reduce the distance among PUV passengers. However, Duque said he was not present when the issue was taken up.
Nonetheless, Roque said the IATF will discuss the matter in a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
“Magkakaroon po ‘yan ng resolution…as soon as the meeting ends, I will issue a statement kung ano ang napagkasunduan pagdating dito sa mass transportation,” he said.
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