Malacañang orders free distribution of face masks to poor Filipinos

Pia Ranada
Malacañang orders free distribution of face masks to poor Filipinos

Visitors of Supreme Court in Manila are required to wear face mask before entering the premises of the building as precautionary methods for COVID-19 on March 9, 2020. Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

The memo issued by President Rodrigo Duterte's office does not say when the distribution of face masks will begin or how many will be given

Upon President Rodrigo Duterte’s orders, Malacañang ordered government agencies to produce, procure, and distribute face masks for the country’s poor.

Memorandum Order No 49, signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Wednesday, September 16, says the masks will be given free of charge.

Six agencies have been ordered to implement the policy.

Below are these agencies and their role:

  • Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – As the lead agency for production and procurement, it should tap micro, small, and medium enterprises to make masks.
  • Department of Health (DOH) – It should help the DTI determine the minimum, most cost-efficient, and good quality specifications for the masks.
  • Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) – It should assist in procuring the masks. DOH funds will be used.
  • Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) – It should link the DTI to TESDA students capable of making masks and coordinate with the DBM on procuring masks made by its students.
  • Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) – It should use its networks and facilities to identify financially disadvantaged persons and persons with disability who should be priority recipients of the free face masks. The beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) are to be included.
  • Presidential Management Staff (PMS) – The only agency under the Office of the President among the 6, the PMS, specifically its assistant secretary for regional concerns, is to monitor the distribution of face masks and report it to the President.

The memo did not set a timeline for the distribution of face masks. It also did not specify how many masks will be given to the public for free.

The instructions come two months after Duterte verbally promised to distribute free face masks to Filipinos as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“I will try to buy as many as I can afford, if I can. We’ll give it to you for free, but wear it,” he said last July 21.

Face masks have become a common sight in the Philippines, largely due to government rules requiring them in public spaces and commercial establishments.

The government also recently added face shields as a requirement for passengers of public transportation and for anyone entering commercial establishments and work places. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at