THE Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will not recognize the executive order issued by Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia making the wearing of face masks in well-ventilated and open spaces in the province optional and no longer mandatory amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Related story: Cebu Province drops mask requirement in open spaces

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año has ordered police to continue to “confront, apprehend, and arrest” all violators of minimum public health standards (MPHS), which includes the mandatory wearing of face mask in public places as set by the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF), especially in the Province of Cebu.

He cited the IATF guidelines on the observance of MPHS, especially in public areas, which was approved by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The President has directed that we will continue to wear face masks except under circumstances defined by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EMID). Current IATF protocols allow only for specific instances when masks can be taken off, such as when eating or during certain well-ventilated sports and activities,” Año said in a statement.

“The Department wishes to remind the public and all local government units that the Covid-19 virus is still present and the pandemic is not yet over. Individuals can still catch the virus, most especially our senior citizens and vulnerable population. We should therefore be vigilant and continue our adherence to all minimum public health standards, get vaccinated or boosted immediately,” he added.

Año said the public’s adherence to MPHS remains to be among the keys to defeating pandemic.

He said the MPHS along with the country’s vaccination program helped keep Covid-19 cases low despite the detection of new subvariants.

Año noted that the wearing of face masks, in particular, does not only prevented the spread of the Covid-19 virus but also other infectious and respiratory diseases.

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) leadership has ordered the Cebu Police Provincial Office (CPPO) to follow the order of Año against the violators of the MPHS in the province, PNP Spokesperson Colonel Jean Fajardo said on Friday, June 10.

“The PNP will follow the guidance of SILG (Secretary Año) and the guidelines of IATF on MPHS po,” she said in a text message to SunStar.

Fajardo answered in affirmative when asked if there is already an order from Camp Crame to CPPO to follow the IATF directive on MPHS.

On Thursday, June 8, the Cebu governor issued an executive order dropping the mandatory use of face masks in well-ventilated and open spaces in the province.

It is the first local government to impose such a protocol while the entire country, as ordered by the IATF and President Rodrigo Duterte himself, continues to adhere to the mandatory face mask rule amid the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic. (SunStar Philippines)