MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte rejected the plan to allow motorcycle back-riding in Cebu amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Duterte said he understands the public’s plight, but stressed that he cannot allow the provincial government to authorize back-riding on motorcycles while the country is still battling Covid-19.
He made the remark after Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia signed an executive order on June 3, allowing back-riding on motorcycles within the province.
“Much as I would like really to accommodate Governor Garcia and the board members, first, what I can say is if I begin an exemption to one which I cannot, I will open myself to charges of anti-graft law giving another an undue advantage,” he said in a taped public address aired on state-run PTV-4 on Friday morning.
Despite the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ (IATF-EID) prohibition on motorcycle back-riding, Garcia allowed a motorcycle rider to carry one passenger, provided that no fare will be collected.
Duterte said he could not exempt Cebu province from the IATF-EID’s policy against back-riding because “others will follow”.
“The law is hard but it is the law. Wala talaga akong magawa (I cannot do anything). It’s not my discretion. Just because I’m the president does not mean I can ignore the laws of the land,” he said.
The IATF-EID has prohibited motorcycle back-riding in the country even after the quarantine measures have been relaxed since physical distancing cannot be observed.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who was with Duterte on Thursday night, said the government could not permit back-riding even for married couples due to the health risks posed by Covid-19.
“Ang virus ay walang pinipili (The virus chooses no one),” he said. “‘Yung minimum health standards na physical distancing, napakahirap i-practice sa motor (It is very difficult to practice the minimum health standards or physical distancing on motorcycles).”
He, however, guaranteed that the ban was just temporary.
Duterte agreed with Año, saying that it is indeed challenging to practice physical distancing on motorcycles.
“Ako sang-ayon ako na mahirap talaga ngayon (I agree that we are in a difficult situation now). We are in hard times. I don’t know if we can go back to the same old style,” he said. (PNA)