Metro Manila mayors back removal of face shields | Inquirer News

Metro Manila mayors back removal of face shields

SHIELD ON A mural in Singalong district, Manila, depicts a man wearing a face shield as the debate on its use outdoors continues. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines — Metro Manila mayors said on Monday that they were in favor of scrapping the use of face shields, except in hospitals and possibly even public utility vehicles, even as Malacañang stood firm that this requirement was still in place despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s categorical order last September to the contrary.

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and Metro Manila Council Chair Benhur Abalos said the 17 mayors of the capital region had unanimously voted to do away with the use of face shields, now that many residents in their areas have been vaccinated.


Abalos also noted that the metropolis has recorded fewer COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.


“We will forward our official position to the IATF who will have the final say,” he said in a statement, referring to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

In a separate interview with the Inquirer, Abalos said that while there had been many policies on the pandemic that had been delegated to the authority of local governments, the mayors would rather defer to the IATF with regard to the use of face shields.

“In case of doubt or if there is any gray area, we defer to the… IATF,” he said.


Since December last year, the task force had required face shields in public spaces to curb the transmission of COVID-19.

The policy has been criticized as unscientific and inconvenient. Critics also said this worsened plastic pollution in the country.

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, who has expressed skepticism about the face shield policy, signed an executive order on Monday dispensing with their mandatory use in the city, except in medical facilities.


Domagoso said his order was to be implemented immediately.

In San Juan City, Mayor Francis Zamora said: “I will issue the necessary executive order pertaining to this and will also ask our city council to amend our existing ordinances which currently prescribe penalties for noncompliance.”

But Zamora also said he would wait for the IATF’s decision before lifting the health protocol.

In Muntinlupa, public information officer Tez Navarro said Mayor Jaime Fresnedi supported a resolution by the MMDA articulating the mayors’ position.

“[B]ut [we] will wait for [the] IATF guidelines,” she said.

Malacañang insisted that until the national government has issued a new order, the face shield requirement must be enforced.

“All mayors are under the control and supervision of the President in the executive branch of government, and the decision of the IATF is the decision of the President. The decision now is the [wearing of] face shield[s] must still be implemented while it is being reviewed,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in his press briefing.

“We need to follow the chain of command in the executive branch of government,” he added.

Regarding Domagoso’s order in Manila, Roque said this could be considered “null and void” for violating the President’s policy.

But on Sept. 22, Mr. Duterte said on national television that face shields “may be removed outside.”

“No more face shields outside,” he also said.


Domagoso responded to Roque’s remarks on Monday night, saying, “as far as the Local Government Code is concerned, [my order] is within the power of the local chief executive under Section 16, the general welfare clause. His [Roque’s] opinion is as good as mine.”

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, who has direct authority over the mayors, also differed from Roque.

“For [the local governments] in low-risk areas wanting to issue ordinances and executive orders on the use of face shields, we will no longer be strict on that,” he told reporters.

Año, however, also said local officials “will be responsible for what happens.”

“But as [interior] secretary, I won’t take it against them as long as their policy is reasonable. The IATF guidelines eventually catch up [with their policies], anyway,” he said.

“We’re the only country in the world still using face shields,” Año noted.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in an interview with reporters on Monday, said “the DOH (Department of Health) has required that face shields be worn only in 3Cs (closed, crowded and close contact) areas. Until that resolution is revoked… the requirement to wear face shields in 3Cs areas stands.”

According to the DOH, it will revise its standing recommendation when it meets with the IATF on Thursday.

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Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire urged the local governments to await first the IATF’s decision.


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