Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas stood firm on his position to discontinue the use of face shields in the city even after national officials told local government units not to remove the requirement for the meantime.
The Sangguniang Panglungsod on Tuesday, November 9, deferred the approval of the mayor’s request to scrap the mandatory use of face shields. But the mayor told Rappler via Viber that he would maintain the non-implementation of Regulation Ordinance No. 2020-061 or the city ordinance requiring the use of face shields.
Asked if he would continue the non-implementation of the face shield ordinance or not, the mayor said, “As is lang kita,” implying that he’s not budging from his position to discontinue the use of the face shields.
When asked for clarification, Treñas only laughed in response, but later sent Rappler an Inquirer article referring to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año’s statement that mayors can lift face shield requirements without approval of the government’s coronavirus task force.
City council debate
Treñas wrote to the city council on November 5 to suspend the mandatory use of face shields in the city following the recommendation of the Iloilo City COVID Team, citing the lack of evidence in its use against COVID-19.
The Sangguniang Panglungsod referred the matter to its Committee on Health “for study, report, and recommendation.”
Committee chairperson Councilor Alan Zaldivar said his committee would work fast to amend the ordinance.
“At this point, we have heard conflicting statements coming from the national agencies, so it’s going to be a bit [of a] challenge on our part. But then again, we are very positive, and we respect the wisdom of [Treñas] why he is pushing to make wearing face shields non-mandatory,” Zaldivar said.
Councilor Ely Estante, the proponent of the city’s face shield ordinance, advocated the deferral on voting and the referral to the committee, saying that it would be better to wait for the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF).
“We could pass any legislation for the benefit of our constituents, but we will give chance to the national government. They pronounced that on [November 11] they will come up with an updated recommendation on the non-wearing of face masks,” Estante said.
“The IATF only provides us with implementing rules, but they do not pass laws. Although these are [IATF] guidelines, ordinances still exist. For the meantime, for the people who are thinking that they cannot wear face [shields], we still have an ordinance and until such time these are amended, they should continue wearing face shields,” he added.
Councilor Candace Tupas, a practicing doctor, cited the WHO recommendation for wearing face shields in hospitals, and suggested that the use of face shields be limited only in health care facilities, and in mass gatherings where face masks may not be properly used.
“In a hospital setting, a full face shield or goggles are required in order for you to be protected from fluids or aerosols brought about by intubation, extubation. We’ve seen that face shields are difficult to use as they [affect vision]. For me, let’s just implement it in a hospital setting,” Tupas suggested.
Reminder to Roque
Prior to the city council session, Treñas addressed Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who had said that local governments’ orders to drop wearing of face shields were “null and void.”
“Harry Roque came up with the theory that all LGUs must follow the chain of command,” Treñas said in his statement.
“As a local chief executive, the Local Government Code provides that local governments have local autonomy. Under a pandemic, the LGUs all comply with all health standards, but the matter of the face shield is not backed by medical or scientific studies,” the mayor added.
The City of Manila on Monday, November 8, announced that the use of face shields would be “non-mandatory” in the city except for medical and hospital facilities.
In his post, Treñas also asked Roque to follow up on his appeal to downgrade Iloilo City’s alert level status, citing previous DOH reports.
DOH-Western Visayas data as of November 8, suggested that Iloilo City should be under Alert Level 1.
“Under the DOH reports, we are ranked last in terms of Alert Levels. We are most urgently requesting Harry Roque to please take up the appeal of Iloilo City so that we will also slowly recover from this pandemic. I wish Harry Roque a good day,” Treñas said.
Joseph B.A. Marzan is a Visayas-based journalist from Iloilo City and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.