Senator Sonny Angara (File photo)

MANILA – Senator Sonny Angara called on the national government and Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to sit down for a dialogue to iron out their differences on the enforcement of the mask mandate.

In an interview with One News Wednesday night, Angara said he understands Garcia's sentiments over the issue, saying Cebu is a province that is dependent on tourism income.

"Naiintindihan ko yung point ni (I understand the point of the) governor in trying to come up with a proactive policy regarding the wearing of masks. And may basis din naman 'yun because pag tiningnan mo (And it has a basis because if you look at) all over the world, they've lifted the wearing of masks outdoors, optional na lang yan (It's just optional now)," he said.

Earlier this week, Garcia issued Executive Order (EO) 16 which made the wearing of face masks optional in well-ventilated spaces and open areas in the province.

The EO, however, made masks mandatory for people manifesting coronavirus symptoms in the province. It was later adopted by the Cebu provincial board which made it an ordinance.

Angara said he also understands the essence of requiring face masks in crowded places where physical distancing is not possible like bus and jeepney stops.

However, he said requiring it in open spaces like in the provinces seems a little outdated.

"But it seems it is the recommendation of our doctors in the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases). I tried to ask around. Apparently, that is their recommendation. So, siguro kung mag-dialogue na lang yung dalawang parties (So, maybe if the two will engage in dialogue) and maybe the DILG can say 'Well, we won't be so strict enforcing it, especially when there is little risk of contagion like just one person is walking on an empty street. Ia-aresto mo pa ba yun? Hindi na siguro diba? Parang (Will you still arrest that person? Maybe no need, right? Like) let common sense prevail," Angara explained.

If both sides insist on their positions, Angara said it will have an impending legal dispute that may ultimately lead to litigation and court.

"That's why I'm recommending a dialogue as a reasonable way forward," he added.

Angara stressed that common sense can prevail especially since the incoming new administration will have a chance to revisit the policy and might find a reason to reexamine it.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Health (DOH) both rejected Garcia's move, saying that all local governments should follow the guidelines of the IATF as approved by the President.

DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said in a public briefing on Monday that they are looking at sending a show-cause order to Garcia if rules on the wearing of face masks outdoors in her province will remain unaligned with the national government's policies.

“There’s a good intent by the executive order of Governor Gwen but more importantly, we should most probably look into the details that it should be aligned with what is pronounced by the president,” Densing said.

Garcia argued earlier that the resolutions being issued by the IATF are merely "recommendatory in nature".

Garcia said in an interview that even the IATF recognizes that its resolutions are neither equivalent to laws created and passed by Congress nor any executive order. (PNA)