Greetings and salutations, all.
For the residents of Dumaguete City – or Dumagueteños, if you will – today, July 26, 2020 marks the start date of mandatory motorbike barriers for married or cohabiting couples who wish to ride together in the City of Gentle People. The practice of back-riding (which allows skin-to-skin contact) was banned early on to decrease the spread of the virus). Last month, the spokesman for the President’s Office, Harry Roque, stated that people caught back riding should be arrested. This ruling comes after the mid-month extension of the implementation of the mandatory regulation to allow cohabitants to ride together on a motorbike so long as they are separated by a barrier between the driver and the passenger (referred to locally as a back rider). All of this is coming down through the mayor’s office under guidance of the Negros Oriental Police Office, the National Inter-Agency Task Force of the Management of Infectious Diseases and the Philippines Department of Interior and Local Government (the DILG).
The Secretary of the DILG, Eduardo M. Año, has stated that back-riding is only for common-law couples, live-in partners and husbands and wives. More specifically, the Secretary stated that this ruling applied only to those couples “living in the same household, whether they are married, common-law husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend.” All other forms of communal riding on a single motorbike are not allowed. Secretary Año went on to say that the public’s role in this is crucial, and preventative measures to contain the spread of the Dreaded Malady will be for not if Filipinos “insist in acting like were in pre-COVID 19 times.” Eligible couples must comply with the barrier requirements and must also present identification verifying that they are living in the same house or apartment. In addition to the aforementioned motorbike shield barrier, couples must also wear all required protective gear such as face masks, motorcycle helmets and close-toed shoes and also reminded police and other security forces that they must also abide by those very same rules.
In short, co-habiting riders must do the following:
Install or mount a safety barrier (back rider shield) between the rider and back rider, this design has to be similar to the design approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (also known as the IATF)
Present proof to operational security forces that they are indeed living in the same domicile (valid ID’s with same address, notarized marriage licenses or the like).
Both driver and back rider must both be wearing personal protective masks.
Both drive and back rider must be wearing proper motorbike safety equipment (helmet and closed-toe shoes – no tsinelas).
If you happen to follow some of the national news outlets in the Philippines (or simply check your Facebook feed), you may have noted that there is some pretty strong opposition to the barrier regulation. Many Filipinos are incensed and incredulous, noting that if a couple is regularly exposed to each other in their own home, why the sudden need to have a protective barrier between them on their motorbikes. Safety experts and engineers from the Philippines have also expressed their opposition to the ruling, noting that the design in unsafe for both rider and pillion and also an unnecessary cost to the families. Some politicians are also opposed. One Senator, Ralph Recto, stated, “What’s the use of a barrier when couples hold hands in going to the motorcycle and kiss each other goodbye after the ride? If they share the same bed at night, why can’t they ride a bike together during the day?”
Despite this, the barrier regulation is still in effect with enforcement left up to Local Government Units (LGU’s).