Statement of Commissioner Karen S. Gomez-Dumpit (Focal Commissioner on the Rights of Older Persons and Women) on the Proposed LRT and MRT Ban for Older Persons and Pregnant Women during the Implementation of the General Community Quarantine Scheme in Metro Manila

Statement of Commissioner Karen S. Gomez-Dumpit (Focal Commissioner on the Rights of Older Persons and Women) on the Proposed LRT and MRT Ban for Older Persons and Pregnant Women during the Implementation of the General Community Quarantine Scheme in Metro Manila

The General Community Quarantine (GCQ) protocols require older persons (or those aged 60 years and above) “to remain in their residences at all times, except when indispensable under the circumstances for obtaining essential goods and services or for work in permitted industries and offices.” Following this protocol, the government transport regulators have decided to ban older persons and pregnant women from riding the MRT and LRT when the NCR starts implementing the GCQ scheme.

We appeal to the Department of Transportation to revisit this policy. The MRT and LRT are major transportation options for the commuting public in Metro Manila. Banning older people and pregnant women in these major transportation options, at any time, and especially in the middle of a health crisis, potentially restricts their ability to access essential goods and services or to go to work. This is permitted by the GCQ protocols. Apart from its inconsistency with the GCQ protocol allowing older people to go out for work and to obtain essential goods and services, it also potentially violates their rights to health and to work.

We understand that the premise of this ban is to protect sectors considered highly vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. While we laud the reason behind it, we reiterate that it is important to discern the most appropriate response that does not disregard or overlook the particular needs of different sectors, especially the marginalized.

If this ban is enforced, pregnant women and older persons who normally commute to their workplaces, health facilities, and to access other essential places using the MRT or LRT will utilize other modes of public transportation. This also exposes to the commuting crowd, and negates the purpose of the ban. The ban only limits their options.

This ban also sends the wrong message that it is acceptable to restrict older people and pregnant women from accessing public transportation. There is no telling how this could later result to individually-imposed restrictions, such as by tricycle, jeepney, and bus operators and drivers. This policy, as benign as its justification may be, may result to individual acts of discrimination.

We believe that the strict implementation of physical distancing and hygiene protocols in the MRT and LRT are sufficient to lower the risk of infection not only for older people and pregnant women, but for everyone regardless of age and circumstance.

Also, consistent with the objective to protect the more vulnerable sectors and following normal MRT and LRT practice, we recommend the designation of additional separate train cars for older persons and pregnant women. We also recommend the strict implementation of priority lanes to provide them relief and to lessen their waiting time. This also means lesser risk of exposure to a big crowd.

We urge the Department of Transportation to focus on these proactive measures and consult the sectors involved. We need clear protocols and guidelines, and not a total ban which may prove to be discriminatory.

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. ###