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Cebu City lifts mandatory face mask use outdoors

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama on Wednesday signed an executive order lifting the mandatory face mask policy in outdoor and open spaces amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on Executive Order No. 5, the use and wearing of face masks in Cebu City has been declared “non-obligatory.” Instead, face mask use will be taken individually as a measure of “self preservation and protection under the principle of shared responsibility and mutual respect.”

EO 5 also states that it is “high time” to simplify and declare such policy, citing that the “lethal effect of the pandemic is already wearing off and that vaccination has been proven to be an effective means in containing the spread and the impact” of COVID-19.

“Most people remain uninformed as to the protection offered by the kind of face mask and the proper way of wearing the same, so long as they have complied with the mandatory wearing of face mask and even just for a show while it cost money and offers inconvenience,” the EO reads.

“On the other side, the long and mandatory wearing of face mask had affected the person as a biopsychosocial and spiritual being.”

The EO, however, exempts hospitals, clinics, and other medical or diagnostic facilities, which still mandates the use of face masks in such establishments, subject to the policy of the entity or discretion of the administrator.

Meanwhile, all establishments, businesses, and entities in the city, including administrators of building and facilities, are granted the option whether or not to follow suit within their areas of responsibility.

In doing so, they are mandated to formulate a “reasonable policy” to implement their face mask rule in line with self regulation.

The Cebu City government also strongly advised persons who are immunocompromised, sick, and have flu-like symptoms to stay at home and seek immediate medical consultation.

They are likewise still required to wear face masks especially when outside their residence.

DOH not consulted

Meanwhile, sought for comment, the Department of Health (DOH) said it was not consulted regarding the lifting of the mandatory face mask policy in Cebu City.

In a press briefing, DOH officer-in-charge (OIC) Maria Rosario Vergeire said "a city within the country cannot act on its own."

"We were not consulted on this matter and this EO that they will going to issue," Vergeire said, adding the matter is under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

"DILG dapat nakapagpatupad ng mga polisiya ng national government across all LGUs, wala pong exemption sa mga protocols at polisiya na ating pinapatupad," she said.

(The DILG should be able to implement the policies of the national government across all LGUs. There is no exemption from the protocols and policies that we implement)

"A city within a country cannot act on its own, cannot be an island across all islands," Vergeire added.

The DOH official said there will be a higher risk of infections in AN area if the safeguards against COVID-19 are not in place.

She ALSO said there should be a "one nation approach" in implementing safeguards and protection to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Palace respects LGU mandate

On the part of the Palace, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said that while there is no reaction yet on the matter, they respect the mandate of the local government units over their own jurisdictions.

"There is no reaction yet from the Palace on this one. It may be taken under advisement although we do respect the mandates of local governments over their own jurisdictions," she said.

"If this is brought up then we will make such an announcement. We are also waiting for the reaction of the DOH on this one, so without all of that info coming in, there will be no statement yet," she added.

The DOH earlier stressed that minimum public health standards, such as wearing the best fitting face mask, together with vaccination and boosters, help keep the country’s COVID-19 case counts low despite the detection of new subvariants.

The DOH said this was after Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia issued an executive order in June on the optional wearing of face masks in well-ventilated and open spaces in the province.  —with Anna Felicia Bajo and Richa Noriega/KBK/RSJ, GMA News