Lapu-Lapu City now allows voluntary use of face masks outdoors

·4 min read

THE Lapu-Lapu City Government will abide by the order of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that allows the voluntary use of face masks in outdoor and non-crowded places.

This was what Mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan said in a statement following the issuance of Marcos’ Executive Order EO) 3 on Monday, September 12, 2022.

Under EO 3, which is “effective immediately,” wearing of masks is no longer mandatory in “open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation.”

But the elderly, immunocompromised individuals and those who have not yet completed their Covid-19 vaccination are “highly encouraged” to continue wearing their masks in all public areas to ensure their protection.

Fully vaccinated individuals are those who have completed their primary series of Covid-19 vaccine.

“However, I strongly encouraged our dear senior citizens, immunocompromised, including those who are not fully vaccinated individuals to properly wear their face masks and continuously observe physical distancing at all times, especially in indoor settings,” said Chan.

Lapu-Lapu City Vice Mayor Celedonio “Celsi” Sitoy, a doctor, was more cautious.

"OK ra man, pero daku gihapon ang bintaha kon kanunay mogamit og face mask kay naa pa sa atong palibot ang Covid virus and wearing a face mask is not a difficult thing to do,” Sitoy told SunStar Cebu.

Despite the EO’s immediate effectivity, the mayor said the City Government must agree with a one island policy as a member of One Cebu Island.

“I understand that the order shall take effect immediately but being a member of One Cebu Island, we must have to agree with a policy of the entire island and it should be uniform for proper implementation,” said Chan.

Amid the latest development, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama also wants to sit down with Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and the mayors of Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City to discuss a “united One Cebu Island Policy” on the wearing of masks and other pandemic mitigation efforts.

Marcos’s EO 3 came on the heels of the controversy that erupted after Rama issued his own EO 5 on August 31 making mask-wearing “non-obligatory” both outdoors and indoors in Cebu City, except in medical facilities at the discretion of its administrator, as well as by persons who are immunocompromised, sick and experiencing flu-like symptoms who go outside their homes.

Rama’s EO sparked a strong reaction from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Health (DOH), both of which were not consulted before the issuance of Rama’s EO that deviates from the national policy that masks be worn in public places.

Mandaue City also announced that they will now allow the voluntary wearing of masks in outdoor settings, according to lawyer Eddu Ibañez, executive secretary of Mayor Jonas Cortes.

Ibañez said Cortes had already talked with the City Council regarding the EO and the need to amend Mandaue City’s mask ordinance 15-2020-1531, in which the wearing of masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic is required in public places, and violators pay a fine of P5,000.

“Face masks shall continue to be worn in indoor private or public establishments, including in public transportation by land, air or sea and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained,” Marcos’ EO 3 read.

It also ordered the DOH to update the minimum public health standard guidelines to continue preventing and minimizing the spread of the new coronavirus.

In a press conference Monday, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said the policy will regularly be reviewed.

“We are doing this in stages, in phases so that we can get feedback on whether or not these new policies are working and how to make them more efficient, so that hopefully by the end of the year, we might be able to be voluntary masked indoors as well,” she said.

Angeles said LGUs are given the discretion to adjust minimum health standards in their areas of jurisdiction in accordance with the new policy, as well as to identify the “open and well-ventilated spaces” in their areas.

“There is some discretion of the local governments to establish minimum standards for the imposition. However, in general what does good ventilation mean? There are opportunities for instance that are crowded, so even if it is outdoors, that’s not good ventilation and you’re in each other’s faces. So without the possibility of social distancing, then this will be considered also as part of the requirement because the requirement is it should not be too crowded,” she added. (MKG)