Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin “Benhur” C. Abalos, Jr. today expressed his full support for the implementation of Executive Order (EO) No. 3 lifting the mandatory mask use outdoors as he urged local government units (LGUs) to strictly carry out the provisions of the same Order requiring the wearing of face masks in indoor areas and public transportation.

The Department is 100% behind President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. in the implementation of EO 3 on voluntary face mask use outdoors. But while the face mask policy has been made optional in the outdoors, the use of face masks in indoor public and private establishments and in public conveyances shall continue to be enforced, especially now that cases are on the uptick,” Abalos said.

LGUs should, therefore, take the lead in ensuring compliance from the public to the indoor and public transport face mask rule in their respective areas,” he added.

The DILG Secretary said he has also directed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to help LGUs in making sure that the indoor and public transport face mask rule is observed by the public.

LGUs and the PNP should coordinate closely in ensuring that the public continues to wear face masks indoors and in public transportation. We are still in the middle of the pandemic and we cannot let our guards down,” he said.

Abalos, however, said high-risk individuals, which include senior citizens, immunocompromised individuals, and those who are not fully vaccinated, are still strongly encouraged to wear masks, and physical distancing will be observed at all times.

Nakikiusap po kami sa ating mga senior at may mga malulubhang karamdaman, for your own safety and health, please wear your facemasks at all times. The threat of COVID-19 cannot be discounted by anyone, more so, our vulnerable population,” he said.

EO No. 3 issued by the Office of the President on September 12, 2022, allows the voluntary wearing of face masks in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation and reiterates the continued implementation of minimum public health standards.

The same EO states that face masks are still mandatory in indoor settings, public transportation by air, land, and sea; and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Abalos emphasized that despite a more lax facemask mandate, LGUs must continue the implementation of minimum public health standards (MPHS) in their respective jurisdictions and ensure that compliance on the provisions of EO No. 3 is observed down to the barangays. “Patuloy pa rin po ang pagpapairal ng MPHS, yan po ang ating paalala sa mga LGUs,” he said.

Well-calculated policy

Meanwhile, the DILG Secretary said that the signing of the EO is a clear signal to all LGUs to move in one accord in terms of the implementation of the facemask mandate in their locality. He said that the focus of LGUs now should be “ensuring that the policy will not be abused and that people are still protected from the virus.”

With the signing of EO No. 3, we hope that issues and questions from LGUs and other sectors on whether or not to continue wearing facemasks outdoors will be laid to rest as the Order makes wearing masks in open spaces optional for all except for senior citizens, immunocompromised individuals and those who are not fully vaccinated who are strongly encouraged to still do so,” he said.

Abalos said that the President’s signing of the EO is based on the sound recommendation of the Interagency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) to liberalize the mask mandate; the high vaccination rate in the country; and, the lax mask policies in neighboring Asian and other countries which did not trigger an increase in COVID-19 cases. “This is a well-calculated move from the government at pinag-aralan ng mga eksperto but at the end of the day, ang pakikiisa pa rin ng ating mga kababayan at iba’t-ibang sektor ang ating kailangan.” ###