Cebu City mayor signs order making wearing face masks voluntary

Cebu City mayor signs order making wearing face masks voluntary
A man smokes on the street with his face mask pulled down before getting on a jeepney in Cebu City on June 8, 2022.
Philstar.com / Jonathan de Santos

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 1:28 p.m.) — Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama has signed an executive order making wearing face masks a voluntary act within the city, except in hospitals, clinics and medical facilities.

Immunocompromised persons and those who are sick or who have flu-like symptoms are also still required to wear face masks outdoors but are directed to stay home if they can.

The executive order, which Rama said was the result of multi-sectoral consultation with stakeholders in the city, notes that wearing face masks will not be obligatory but is "a measure of individual self-preservation and protection."

Face masks will generally not be mandatory in open spaces and outdoors while establishments will have the discretion to set policy on face masks within their areas of business.

The executive order, a copy of which will be sent to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, was issued to "simplify and declare that wearing of face masks is primarily a measure of self-preservation and protection" and that these are to be worn as part of a "shared responsibility and mutual respect."

Rama said that the city has seen a high vaccination rate at 110% of its target. The city, as well as Lapu-Lapu City and Mandaue and Poro town, are the areas in Cebu province under Alert Level 1.  The province itself is under the more stringent Alert Level 2.

The mayor said that local government units have a better idea of the situation "in terms of how we are seeing the gamut of social and even the health activities." 

RELATED: Cebu COVID-19 cases on downward trend

In a statement to media, the Palace said that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. does not have a reaction to Cebu City's shift in policy yet. "We respect the mandate of local governments over their own jurisdictions," Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles also said.

Pandemic policies and protocol are generally within the purview of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, which still requires the use of face masks and also required the use of face shields for most of 2021.

The Cebu provincial government and the DILG clashed briefly in June over a provincial ordinance making the wearing of face masks outdoors and in open spaces optional despite government guidelines requiring them.

Then Interior Secretary Eduardo Año hinted at legal cases against Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia if the ordinance was not withdrawn but later announced that the department and the province had reached a "compromise."

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