The ever-changing health safety protocols in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic often generate confusion not only to the public but also among those who enforce them.
Recently, there was some confusion about the use of face masks inside a vehicle after a Land Transportation Office (LTO) official spoke in a radio show saying that persons in a private or public vehicle must wear face masks all the time, even though they come from the same household.
Here are some of the things one needs to know about the LTO’s face mask requirement.
What are LTO’s rules when it comes to wearing face masks in private and public vehicles?
According to Section 4 (Sanitary Measures) of the memorandum circular 2020-2185 released by LTO in May 2020, all drivers and passengers of private and government vehicles (including motorcycles and tricycles) must wear face masks all the time.
For public vehicles, drivers and conductors must wear masks and gloves at all times, while commuters are required to wear masks in order to be allowed in the public utility vehicle (PUV).
In an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo, LTO Law Enforcement Service acting director Clarence Guinto said that passengers of a vehicle must wear a face mask regardless if they are from the same household.
Guinto also said in the interview that not wearing a face mask when one is alone in a public or private vehicle will not be considered a violation. Cabinet Secretary and IATF co-chair Karlo Nograles clarified in a statement Tuesday that drivers who are alone in their vehicle need not wear a face mask as he or she cannot infect anyone else.
What is the corresponding violation if one does not comply to the face mask requirement?
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The circular states that non-compliance to the sanitary measures outlined by LTO (which includes the face-mask wearing requirement) will be considered a reckless driving violation, which applies to both private vehicles and PUVs, based on the existing Department of Transportation and Communication’s joint administrative order (JAO) 2014-01.
For PUVs, non-compliance with the safety measures also means a breach of franchise condition.
What are the penalties that one will incur for non-compliance with the face mask requirement?
LTO assistant secretary Edgar Galvante said on Tuesday that those who will fail to wear a face mask inside their vehicles, whether they are from the same household, will not be fined yet.
Galvante also said that the IATF and the Department of Health are currently reviewing the policy. In the meantime, those who will be flagged by authorities will not be fined just yet. Instead, they will just be reminded about the importance of observing the protocol.
While the LTO is still waiting for the result of IATF and Department of Health’s review of the policy, let’s have a look at the penalties that one may incur under the JAO 2014-01.
The following penalties apply for both private vehicles and PUVs:
First offense: P2,000
Second offense: P3,000
Subsequent offense: P10,000
In addition, PUVs will also be slapped with the following fines for their breach of franchise condition:
First offense: P5,000
Second offense: P10,000 (plus impounding of unit for 30 days)
Third and subsequent offenses: P15,000 (and cancellation of the certificate of public conveyance