LGUs told: Follow updated mask policy

·3 min read

DEPARTMENT of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. enjoined all local government units (LGUs) on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, to “move in one accord” in terms of implementing the country’s updated face mask policy amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“With the signing of EO (executive order) No. 3, we hope that issues and questions from LGUs and other sectors on whether or not to continue wearing face masks outdoors will be laid to rest as the order makes wearing masks in open spaces optional for all, except for senior citizens, immunocompromised individuals and those who are not fully vaccinated who are strongly encouraged to still do so,” he said in a statement.

He urged the LGUs to continue the implementation of minimum public health standards, which include the observance of physical distancing, frequent handwashing and the wearing of masks in indoor and crowded areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Abalos reminded the people to continue to wear masks in public transportation whether by sea, land or air.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. issued EO 3 last Monday, Sept. 12, following the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases to lift the mandatory wearing of masks in open, non-crowded and well-ventilated spaces.

The IATF came up with the recommendation after controversy erupted over Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s issuance of EO 5 last Aug. 31 making mask-wearing “non-obligatory” outdoors and indoors in Cebu City, except in medical facilities at the discretion of their administrators, as well as for persons who are immunocompromised, sick and experiencing flu-like symptoms who go outside their homes.

On Tuesday, Mayor Junard Chan said the Lapu-Lapu City Government would abide by the order of Marcos that allows the voluntary use of masks in outdoor and non-crowded places.

“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,” Chan said in a statement.

Despite EO 3’s immediate effectivity, Chan said the City Government must agree on 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.

On Monday, Mayor Rama had said he wanted to sit down with Cebu Gov. 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.

On the same day, Mandaue City had also said it would adopt Marcos’ EO and allow the voluntary wearing of masks outdoors.

Lawyer Eddu Ibañez, executive secretary of Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes, said Cortes had already talked with the City Council on amending Mandaue City’s Ordinance 15-2020-1531, which metes out a fine of P5,000 to those not wearing masks in public places.

Governor Garcia was the first local chief executive in the country to make mask wearing in outdoor and well-ventilated areas optional when she issued EO 16 last June 8 that required mask wearing only in closed and/or air-conditioned spaces in the Province of Cebu, as well as for persons with Covid-19 symptoms going outside of their homes.

Both Garcia’s EO 16 and Rama’s EO 5 drew protests from the DILG and the Department of Health for deviating from the prevailing IATF policy that required masking in public places. (TPM, MKG)