Local governments in Luzon tweak face mask policy
Citing an improving COVID-19 situation and a strong immunity wall in their areas, several local governments in Luzon were quick to adopt President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s executive order allowing the voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings following the recommendation of the national pandemic task force.
In Baguio City, most residents continued to wear masks in public on Tuesday, a local holiday, despite the option offered by Marcos’ order.
On Monday afternoon, the city council passed on first reading a measure that either repeals or amends the public health crisis ordinance that makes face masks mandatory.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan directed council secretary Brenner Bengwayan to draft the proposed bill that would change Ordinance No. 45, series of 2020, which sets regulations on people’s movement and other precautions against the spread of COVID-19. The local law was amended last year by Ordinance No. 49, series of 2021, which no longer requires the wearing of face shields.
Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong wrote to Olowan on Sept. 8, asking for changes to the public health ordinance, stressing that the city “remained a low-risk area, which has led to the opening of more economic activities, wellness and fitness activities, and the resumption of face-to-face classes in our educational institutions.”
In Ilocos Norte, Gov. Matthew Marcos Manotoc on Monday issued an executive order dropping the face mask requirement in public areas in line with the President’s directive.
Ilocos Norte has been consistently under COVID-19 alert level 1, the lowest risk classification, according to Manotoc, adding that the province had already reached its herd immunity target.
In the Cagayan Valley region, provincial boards and municipal councils have yet to amend or repeal their mask policies, but residents have welcomed the policy change brought about by Marcos’ order.
In Bataan province, workers at the Freeport Area of Bataan in Mariveles town were still asked to wear face masks even outside their work premises, said Hazel Keith Ellioren, information officer of the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan.
Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino Jr. said the local government would immediately implement the President’s order.
In the Visayas, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said the Marcos EO ended all disagreements on the matter.
“I appreciate it very much, [and] I look at it as managing COVID-19 vis-a-vis economic recovery,” said Rama, the second elected official in the country after Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to make the wearing of masks outdoors voluntary.
Rama said he wanted to sit down with Garcia and the city mayors of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu to discuss a “one Cebu island policy” on the wearing of masks as well as other pandemic mitigation efforts.
Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes has already talked to the city council about the need to amend the city’s mask ordinance, said lawyer Eddu Ibañez, the mayor’s executive secretary.
Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Junard Chan said: “It’s a good development that face masks no longer need to be worn outdoors. [But] I strongly encourage these people to properly wear their face masks and continuously observe physical distancing at all times, especially in indoor settings.”
Bohol Gov. Aris Aumentado said he would heed the order of the national pandemic task force but reminded the public to remain cautious and to observe health protocols.
—REPORTS FROM VINCENT CABREZA, JOHN MICHAEL MUGAS, VILLAMOR VISAYA JR., GREG REFRACCION, JOANNA ROSE AGLIBOT, CARMELA REYES-ESTROPE, MADONNA VIROLA, LEO UDTOHAN, JOEY GABIETA AND ADOR VINCENT MAYOL