DEPARTMENT of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. enjoined all local government units (LGUs) on Tuesday, September 13, 2022, to “move in one accord” in terms of implementing the country’s updated face masks policy amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“With the signing of EO (executive order) No. 3, we hope that issues and questions from LGUs and other sectors on whether or not to continue wearing face masks 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 in a statement.

Abalos said the issuance of EO 3 is a clear signal that LGUs should move as one and ensure that the policy will not be abused and that people will remain protected from the virus.

He urged the LGUs to continue the implementation of minimum public health standards, which now include the observance of physical distancing, frequent handwashing and the wearing of face masks in indoor and crowded areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Abalos reminded the people to continue to wear face masks in public transportation either by sea, land or air.

He said he 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,” said Abalos.

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

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. issued EO 3 following the recommendation of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to lift the mandatory wearing of face mask in open, non-crowded and well-ventilated spaces.

The IATF came up with the recommendation after Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama issued an order making the wearing of face masks in all areas, whether open or closed spaces, within their jurisdiction, optional. (SunStar Philippines)