DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 Sep) – The local task force on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) warned Dabawenyos on Tuesday that they can still be penalized under the existing local ordinance if they are caught not wearing face masks indoors and other enclosed spaces without proper ventilation.
Dr. Michelle Schlosser, spokesperson for the task force, said on Tuesday that Executive Order No. 3 released by Malacañang on Monday allows only “optional” wearing of face masks in open spaces or non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation.
City Ordinance No. 0307-20, passed on July 23, 2020, provides that any person “caught not wearing a face mask in public places shall be penalized with a fine of P500 for the first offense; P2,000 for the second offense; and P5,000 or one-month imprisonment for the third offense.”
Schlosser said local authorities still encourage the unvaccinated individuals and those belonging to the vulnerable sector, including senior citizens and the immunocompromised who may likely suffer from severe and critical type of COVID-19, to keep their masks on in public and observe physical distancing.
“In areas such as enclosed and indoor spaces without proper ventilation, we strictly implement the minimum public health standards. Therefore, if you violate it, you will still be penalized just the same under our city ordinance,” she said.
Schlosser said face masks are required in public conveyances, including, among others, jeepneys, taxis, buses, and airplanes.
Dr. Ricardo Audan, chief of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), said in a text message that he has mixed reaction to the liberalization of face mask policy in the country.
“Since I am in the health sector accommodating COVID cases, as for me, I still go for wearing of masks. But I’m ok with the lifting if outside and not in crowded places. Also, it’s ok if you have already received booster doses,” he said.
He added that it is risky not to wear face mask inside the state-run hospital.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. lifted on Monday the mandatory wearing of face masks in outdoor areas after more than two years of grappling with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
In his Executive Order No. 3, the President approved the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) allowing the optional wearing of face masks in open spaces or non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation.
It said that as of September 6, 2022, there have been 72 million individuals, or 93% of the target population in the country, who have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), while 18 million, or 23% of the target population, have received booster doses.
It added that 88 provinces, highly-urbanized cities, and independent cities, and 296 component cities and municipalities have been de-escalated to Alert Level 1, the least restrictive in the country’s alert level system for COVID-19.
“Neighboring countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and various countries across the world have liberalized mask mandates without a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases,” the EO read.
Section 1 provides that the voluntary wearing of face masks in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation, is hereby allowed, provided that not fully-vaccinated individuals, senior citizens, and immunocompromised individuals are highly encouraged to wear their masks, and physical distancing will be observed all times.
It added that “face masks shall continue to be worn in indoor private or public establishments, including in public transportation by land, air, or sea, and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”
In addition, Section 2 states that the minimum public health standards (MPHS) intended to effectively prevent and minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the country shall continue to be implemented consistent with the principles of shared accountability, evidence-based decision-making, socioeconomic equity and rights-based approach.
Government establishments such as departments, agencies, and instrumentalities, including state universities and colleges, government-owned and controlled corporations, government financial institutions, and local government units are directed to render full assistance to and cooperation with the IATF-EID, it said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)