Cebu biz leaders welcome order making face mask wearing optional in workplaces

BUSINESS leaders in Cebu welcomed the order issued by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in making the wearing of face masks in workplaces in the private sector optional.

For Kelie Ko, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), the new DOLE order is a “welcome development,” adding that global data has shown that Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), has become less virulent.

“Hence, it is time to concentrate on the recovery of businesses. How each establishment implements this will depend on the environment they work in and the preference of their customers, as they say, the customer is always right,” Ko told SunStar Cebu on Thursday, November 3, 2022.

Steven Yu, immediate past president of MCCI, agreed with Ko, saying dispensing the masking mandate creates a “sense of normalcy,” which results in increased productivity and spurs economic activities that help cover, though not fully, the effects of the ongoing global economic crisis.

“Making masking optional is a step towards normalcy and living the new normal. We have proven that the sense of normalcy brings about increased economic activities and hence, it helps in the economic recovery. With the recessionary global economic environment, our focus now should be how to sustain our livelihood and alleviate poverty, and move forward to the new normal,” Yu said.

“By now, the private sector is fully aware of the pros and cons of masking after more than two years of Covid pandemic, and is fully capable of deciding what option to follow. As we can see now in most retail and service industries, guest attendants continue to wear masks. Despite numerous instances of events and crowding, we also did not notice any surge in healthcare capacity utilizations which goes to show that we are now in the endemic stage,” he added.

Be responsible

But for Charles Kenneth Co, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry past president, even with the optional mask mandate for private sector workplaces, the public should remain responsible for the preference of others, especially for those who still want to wear face masks when going out of the house.

He also urged those who have Covid-19 symptoms to just stay at home.

“I would like to ask the public to be sensitive to one another as individuals have different comfort levels with regards to wearing or not wearing the mask. As with any harmonious community, let us all be respectful of each other's preference regarding wearing masks. Let’s also be responsible and stay home if we are not feeling well to prevent the spread of viruses,” Co added.

In Labor Advisory 22, signed by Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, the wearing of face masks of all workers in all workplaces except in healthcare facilities, medical transport vehicles and public transportation is no longer mandatory.

But it said the employers may implement a policy requiring the wearing of face masks, taking into account the hazards and risks of the workplace environment, industry requirements and incidence of other communicable diseases.

It noted that the elderly, immunocompromised, unvaccinated, and symptomatic individuals, individuals with comorbidities, and pregnant women are highly encouraged to wear face masks in their respective workplaces.

The order is in pursuant to the Executive Order (EO) 7 of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., allowing the non-mandatory wearing of face masks indoors. (TPM/KOC/SunStar Philippines)