MANILA - Sen. Imee Marcos on Thursday urged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to distribute free face shields to poor commuters, saying the mandatory wearing of the protective gear is another burden to the public still reeling from the economic impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Under the DOTR's new policy, those who would ride jeeps, buses, trains and airplanes are required to wear face masks and face shields beginning Aug. 15 as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in the country.
While government wants Filipinos, many of whom are low-income workers who rely on public transportation, to be protected against the virus, it should also consider how difficult it is to earn nowadays, Marcos said in a statement.
"Hindi pa ba sapat ang physical distancing at pagsusuot ng face mask? Meron pang barrier," she said.
(Is physical distancing and the wearing of fack masks not enough? They have even required barriers.)
"Sagad na ang mga mahihirap nating mga kababayan, bakit hindi na lang ito ipamigay nang libre?" she said.
(Our poor countrymen are already at their worst, why can't face shields just be given out for free?)
Instead of buying a face shield, which costs between P30 and P65, Filipinos can instead use the money to purchase food, said Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs.
"Alam nating dagdag proteksyon ito sa ating mga kababayan, pero sana tingnan din natin ang kakayanan at kalagayan nila sa buhay," the senator said.
(We know that it adds protection for our countrymen, but we should also look at their capacity and their status in life.)
"Hindi dapat mandatory; kung sino lang ang may kakayanan na makabili," she said of the policy.
(It should not be mandatory, but only for those who could afford to buy.)
Transportation Sec. Arthur Tugade earlier said purchasing face shields is a small price to pay compared to hospitalization costs once a person contracts COVID-19.
"Huwag sana nating isipin na panibagong gastusin o dagdag abala ang pag-require natin sa pag-gamit ng face shield," Tugade said in a statement.
(We should not think of this new requirement of using face shields as a new expense or as additional burden.)
"No amount of protection is too much when it comes to health and safety, especially that we are battling an invisible enemy," he said.
Despite having one of the world's longest lockdowns, the Philippines is poised to become the COVID-19 epicenter in Southeast Asia with 115,980 cases as of August 5.
Of these patients, 66,270 recovered, 2,123 died, while the rest are still battling the disease.