The Cebu Provincial Board has passed Governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s directive to make face masks optional in well-ventilated areas, defying the national government’s order to keep face masks mandatory.
In a special session held Tuesday (June 14), members of the provincial board unanimously adopted Executive Order No.16 which allows people not to wear face masks outdoors or in open spaces.
This is despite an earlier statement by Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) prevails over the local government units.
Guevarra also noted that IATF guidelines are backed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive orders.
The board reportedly adopted Garcia’s EO, as proposed by Board Member John Ismael Borgonia, after only about 30 minutes.
Borgonia said that the new ordinance gives legal basis for the police not to apprehend residents who will not wear masks outdoors.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday (June 15) recommended the wearing of face masks until the end of the year.
“You know the mask did not only protect us against COVID-19. It also protected us from other respiratory infections, even with this monkeypox. This disease, we can be protected from monkeypox by just wearing the mask,” she said in an interview.
The health official also criticized the provincial government of Cebu for lifting the wearing of masks rule. She said that issuing an executive order to lift the mask mandate is risky because of the recent increase in cases and new subvariants entering the country.
On June 10, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said that his department was not recognizing Garcia’s order and directed the Philippine National Police to “confront, apprehend and arrest, if necessary, all violators” of the IATF rule on face masks.
Malacañang, meanwhile, said it supports the legal opinion of Justice Secretary Guevarra’ while Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said his department would issue a show-cause order as a “last step” if Garcia would insist on implementing her EO.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has also confirmed the relief of Col. Engelbert Soriano, director of the Cebu Provincial Police Office, after the officer said that he will observe Garcia’s EO on the observance of COVID-19 protocols in the province.
Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.
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