Wearing face masks voluntary on public transpo as Marcos lifts public emergency

James Relativo - Philstar.com
Wearing face masks voluntary on public transpo as Marcos lifts public emergency
LRT passengers browse through their cellphones while commuting in Manila on March 13, 2023.
STAR / Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — All protocols against COVID-19 are now dropped across all public transportation systems in the Philippines, making face masks in all railways, public utility vehicles, airports "optional" after three more than years.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) announced this to the public last Sunday in lieu of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s lifting of the state of public health emergency.

"This new development is a significant step towards normalizing public transportation and supporting economic recovery," said Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista in a statement yesterday after issuing Department Order 2023-017.

"While public safety remains a top priority, the removal of protocols aims to facilitate commuters' convenience, contribute to the revival of the transportation industry, and help stimulate economic activity."



All prior Department Orders, Special Orders, Office Orders, Memoranda, and issuances that are effective only during the State of Public Health Emergency are hereby withdrawn, revoked or canceled and shall no longer be in effect, said DOTr's order.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation 922 or the state of public health emergency last March 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government first instituted mandatory face masks in April 2020 to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. 

As the COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations lowered through time — coupled with the reopening of the economy — Bongbong allowed the voluntary wearing of face masks in both outdoor settings through his Executive Order 7. One of the exemptions to mandatory masking however is public transportation.

The removal of the face mask requirement transpired a year after public transportation went back to 100% capacity.

"All DOTr sectoral offices and attached agencies are directed to iissue appropriate implementing policies, rules and regulations to take into consideration the lifting of the State of Public Health Emergency," the order continued.

"This Order shall take effect immediately."

COVID-19 infections in the country is now up to 4.17 million since 2020, with 66,542 of them already dead. Around 5,121 are still active cases currently.

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