BEGINNING Friday, July 10, 2020, motorcycle back riding will be allowed, but only for couples living in the same house in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said.
A barrier would also have to be installed between the driver and passenger.
“Yes starting tomorrow (Friday) we will allow backriding for couples living in the same household, whether they are married or they are common-law husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend but they are living in the same household,” Año said in a mix of Tagalog and English.
“Their IDs should show that they have the same last name. If, for example, they do not have the same last name because they are common-law husband and wife, they should have the same address written on their IDs. There are so many ways to prove that they are living in the same house,” he added.
Año said the National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 has approved a motorcycle prototype proposed by Bohol Governor Arthur Yap, which requires the installation of a barrier between the driver and the passenger.
Yap, in an interview with SunStar Cebu, said he is thankful the Task Force listened to the suggestions of local officials.
“But I want to remind people who want to use this design to always follow traffic rules and the seating capacity of the habal-habal (motorcycles-for-hire). You cannot trade those rules for this,” Yap said in Cebuano.
The NTF is continuously studying other designs and features that will ensure the safety of the riders.
“There should be a barrier in between the rider and passenger and there should be a handle at the side of the barrier. The barrier should go above the head to be sure that saliva won’t splash and at the same time, the passenger and rider both have to wear masks and crash helmets,” Año said.
Año urged the public to propose other motorcycle designs that could prevent transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus.
He said proposals can be submitted to the NTF so that these can be further studied by a technical working group.
Meanwhile, the Joint Task Force (JTF) Covid Shield is crafting specific guidelines for motorcycle riders and backriders.
Lieutenant General Guillermo Eleazar, JTF commander and Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy chief for operations, said the guidelines will focus on the health and safety of the riders.
The guidelines will also ensure that persons pretending to be a couple will not be allowed to get past the checkpoints.
“First of all, Filipinos have the habit of finding excuses. They would do every alibi that they can think of just to circumvent the rules even if they are fully aware that what they are doing is wrong,” he said in a mix of Tagalog and English.
“Secondly, there is the ‘this can do’ attitude of some of our countrymen. What we want to avoid here are road accidents that may be caused by dividers that have not been built properly,” Eleazar added.
The areas under GCQ until July 15 are Talisay City and the towns of Minglanilla and Consolacion in the province of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Leyte, Ormoc, Southern Leyte, the National Capital Region, Benguet, Cavite, and Rizal.
The areas under MGCQ with strict local action in the Visayas are: the rest of Cebu Province, Bohol and Negros Oriental in Central Visayas;
Capiz, Iloilo, Iloilo City, Negros Occidental and Bacolod City in Western Visayas; and Tacloban City and Western Samar in Eastern Visayas.
For Mindanao, the MGCQ areas with strict local action are: Zamboanga City and Zamboanga del Sur in Zamboanga Peninsula; Bukidnon, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro in Northern Mindanao; Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao City and Davao de Oro in Davao; Cotabato and South Cotabato in Soccsksargen; Agusan del Norte and Butuan City in Caraga; and Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur in Bangsamoro.
In Luzon, the MGCQ areas with strict local action are: Abra, Baguio City, Ifugao and Kalinga in Cordillera; Ilocos Norte, La Union and Pangasinan in Ilocos; Cagayan and Isabela in Cagayan Valley; Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Angeles City in Central Luzon; Batangas, Laguna, Quezon and Lucena City in Calabarzon; Palawan and Puerto Princesa City in Mimaropa; and Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Naga City in Bicol.
The rest of the country is under low-risk MGCQ with fewer restrictions.
Año’s announcement was met with a sigh of relief by Cebu officials.
At Capitol, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia said this will benefit many of her constituents who depend on motorcycles as their mode of transportation.
“This has been really the cry of so many. I am very happy that this has finally been considered by the IATF and by DILG,” Garcia said.
She is awaiting guidelines on the DILG directive so that this can be “faithfully implemented in the province of Cebu.”
In Mandaue City, Mayor Jonas Cortes said the DILG approval of motorcycle backriding for couples is something they have long wanted to happen.
The Mandaue City Council approved a resolution in June 2020 requesting the IATF to allow backriding, Cortes said.
For his part, Land Transportation Office (LTO) 7 Regional Director Victor Caindec welcomed Año’s announcement “with wide open arms.”
“Although we will have to wait for the proper orders from the Central Office; but this is very important for our people to move on to the new normal,” Caindec said.
As of this writing, Caindec said, LTO 7 had yet to receive orders from its head office in Manila cancelling an earlier directive issued by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) under the Omnibus Public Transport Protocols/Guidelines which expressed that “motorcycles are prohibited from having backride passengers.”
Caindec said they will await guidelines on the matter as well as the NTF-approved prototype.
Motorcycle enthusiasts described Año’s announcement as an answered prayer.
“This is good news for us,” Joher Ardon, president of Max Scooter Club Philippines-Cebu said especially since no public utility vehicles are plying their routes.
“We are overjoyed because if you really come to analyze it, husbands and wives, live-in partners and other couples sleep together in their homes. Now, why shouldn’t they be allowed to backride in motorcycles?” Ardon said.
Cebu City not included
While the rest of the country will soon see couples on board their motorcycles, this will not be the case for Cebu City as long as it remains under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status.
Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella said he respects the decision of the National Government.
“I understand because we are under ECQ,” said Labella who has been asking DOTr to allow motorcycle backriding by writing a letter to the agency twice — in March and later in May, to reconsider its no backrider policy. (SunStar Philippines, WBS, ANV, KFD, HBL, PAC, JJL)