Cebu City

Rama makes masks optional in Cebu City

John Sitchon
Rama makes masks optional in Cebu City

MASKS OPTIONAL. Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama signs EO making masks optional.

John Sitchon/Rappler

Masks are no longer mandatory in indoor and outdoor spaces in Cebu City

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama signed Executive Order No. 5 on Wednesday, August 31, revoking the policy imposing the mandatory wearing of face masks in indoor and outdoor public spaces.

“It’s about time,” Rama said during the press conference on the lifting of the policy.

Based on the reading of the executive order by Rama’s secretary Collin Rosell, the wearing of face masks is now “non-obligatory” within the territory of Cebu City.

The EO is effective immediately.

The mayor clarified that this order can apply both indoors and outdoors, but private institutions still have the discretion to require the wearing of face masks within their establishments. 

Also, people are still required to wear masks in the public hospitals, clinics, and other health centers. 

Rama stated that his reason for this shift in policy was the success in the city’s vaccination campaign, especially in schools, and low COVID-19 cases.

Decision ‘not product of haste’

“This is not a product of haste,” Rama said.

The Cebu City Government earlier mentioned in a Facebook post on Tuesday, August 30, that a draft of the executive order was already presented to city heads in a multi sectoral convergence meeting.

Earlier in June, during the last month of the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia adopted an optional face mask policy in the province. (READ: Masks now optional outdoors in Cebu province)

The Department of Interior and Local Government ordered the police to disregard Garcia’s policy then.

According to Rama, he has already informed DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos prior to signing the executive order.

Rama said that he was “ready” to talk to national COVID-19 task force policymakers if they would disagree with his order.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has yet to issue a statement on Cebu City’s new mask policy policy.

“We respect the mandate of local governments over their own jurisdictions. The President has no reaction to this as of yet,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles said in a Malacañang press conference on Wesdnesday, August 31.

Angeles added that they are waiting for the advice of the Department of Health (DOH) before issuing a statement.

In a separate press conference on Wednesday, August 31, DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said they were not consulted on Cebu City’s lifting of its mask mandate.

“I always say a city within a country cannot act on its own… one particular place cannot be implementing its own protocol, while the rest of the country is implementing another protocol because we have porous borders,” Vergeire said in a mix of Filipino and English.

She called wearing a mask a “small sacrifice” to protect ourselves.

The mayors of the independent cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu have also publicly announced that they were in favor of adopting similar measures to Rama’s EO.

‘Low’ COVID-19 cases, high vaccination rates basis for policy

“When I arrived from Canada [on August 26], I saw an article saying that our number of cases has decreased so we might as well do our own shifting,” Rama said.

Rappler tried to ask Rama separately on what data the city assessed as their basis of the new face mask policy, but our questions have gone unanswered so far. Rappler will update this story as soon as Rama responds.

Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera previously said in a media forum last August 23 that cases were already less than 5% – the ideal rate set by the WHO, but would not give the exact number of cases in the city.

Meanwhile, the Cebu City Health Department (CCHD) recorded a total of 850,531 full-dose COVID-19 inoculations.

The city has 1,156,146 adults registered for the vaccination program. – with reports from Bea Cupin/Rappler.com

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