MANILA – President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has approved an executive order (EO) allowing the voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings, particularly in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation.
“Naglabas po tayo today ng Executive Order No. 3 (We have released EO No. 3) allowing voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings and reiterating the continued implementation of minimum public health standards during the state of public health emergency relating to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles announced in a Palace press briefing.
She said the EO, signed by the President on Monday, will be effective immediately.
“This order shall take effect immediately upon its publication in the OG [Official Gazette] or newspaper of general circulation. Nasa OG na po siya (It has been published in the OG),” she said.
Under the EO, those who have yet to complete their primary Covid-19 vaccination series, senior citizens, and immunocompromised persons are still “highly encouraged” to use face masks.
Cruz-Angeles said physical distancing and other minimum public health standards (MPHS) will also continue to be strictly enforced.
“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 at all times,” she added.
The EO still requires face masks 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.
“Tuloy pa rin po ang (We will continue adhering to) other minimum public health standards intended to effectively prevent and minimize the spread of Covid-19 in the country. It shall continue to be implemented consistent with the principles of shared accountability, evidence-based decision making, socio economic equity and rights-based approach,” Cruz-Angeles said.
She said the EO also directs the Department of Health (DOH) to update the MPHS guidelines.
Open to feedback
Cruz-Angeles said the voluntary wearing of face masks will be implemented in phases or stages to gather feedback from health authorities.
“We’re doing this in stages, in phases so that we can have feedback on whether or not these new policies are working and how to make them more efficient so that hopefully by the end of the year we might be able to be voluntarily masked indoors as well,” she said.
She said the policy will be reviewed if the voluntary face mask policy would cause an increase in Covid-19 cases.
“If the voluntary masks outdoors is going to contribute to something then of course the policy will again be reviewed,” she added.
Meanwhile, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go suggested it is better to still wear masks outdoors, especially in public transport, despite the EO.
"Though voluntary na sa mga (in the) open areas ang pagsusuot ng (the wearing of) masks, hinihikayat ko pa rin ang ating mga kababayan, kung di naman (I urge our countrymen, if not a) discomfort on your part, na magsuot ng (to wear a) mask. Pakisuot na rin po ng inyong (Please just wear your) mask," he said in a press briefing on Monday.
The chair of the Committee on Health and Demography likewise reiterated his appeal to avail of Covid-19 booster shots.
"I'm sure marami pa tayong (we still have a lot of) available na vaccines. Sa lahat po ng (To all who are) qualified na magpa-booster, magpa-booster na po kayo kaysa naman po ma-expire itong mga bakuna na 'to (to take boosters, just take a booster instead of letting these vaccines expire)," he added. (With a report from Wilnard Bacelonia/PNA)