Couples living together in the Philippines are now allowed to travel on a single motorcycle starting Friday, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said today.
In an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, Año said that riding pillion will only be allowed for couples who are “living in the same household, whether they are married, common-law husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend.” He did not say whether the same principle applies to same-sex partners.
However, he added that couples may be required to show identification to authorities to confirm that they are living in the same home. A protective shield should also be mounted in between the couple, a recommendation made by Bohol Governor Arthur Yap.
“Starting tomorrow, we will allow back-riding for couples, and the prototype model submitted by Governor Art Yap has been approved by the NTF [National Task Force],” Año said in English and Filipino.
While Yap’s shield design is the only one approved, the government is keen to accept other proposals.
“We have a TWG [Technical Working Group] who are examining [the shields], and right away they will tell us if [the shields] are safe for travel. [We need] a barrier between the rider and the passenger so that COVID will not be transmitted,” Año said.
Yap’s approved protective shield is described as a “barrier between the rider and the passenger. The barriers have handles on the sides, and the height [of the shield] goes past the passengers’ head to safeguard against any saliva that may leave [the mouth]…what’s good is this will protect the passengers,” the Interior Secretary said.
He said that while the said shields are in place, both the passenger and driver will still need to wear a mask and helmet. He added that the drivers must exercise care in driving with the said contraption in place.
“These are different times, we are altering the configuration of motorcycles, which is why we need to practice more care when driving. [Motorcycle] accidents have happened when no barriers were in place, which is why they should take extra care when driving now that these barriers are in place,” he said.
Pillion-riding, which leads to skin-to-skin contact, has been banned all over the country to curb the spread of COVID-19. Back in June, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said people who ride behind motorbikes should be arrested.
But many car-less Filipinos who’ve had difficulty commuting around the metro have urged officials to reconsider the ban. Lawmakers, including Senator Ralph Recto, have urged the government to allow married couples to be exempted from social distancing rules, adding that it would help commuters’ cope with the lack of transportation options.
“If they share the same bed at night, why can’t they ride a bike together during the day?” Recto argued.