The Department of the Interior and Local Government maintained that the national mask mandate will be implemented nationwide, including the province of Cebu, after Gov. Gwen Garcia’s optional mask policy in outdoor settings.
According to DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III, the Cebu Provincial Board Resolution, which asked Garcia to come up with the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of her policy, has made Garcia's Executive Order 16 moot.
"Nakalagay doon sa provincial board resolution ay binibigyan ang governor ng pagkakataon para mag-promulgate ng implementing rules and regulations, idedetalye po ’yung provincial resolution na yun. So, ’yun po ang aabangan namin. Doon kami mag-a-assist, para masigurado ’pag dinetalye ’yan, naka-align sa national government health protocols. So ngayon, hindi ko muna huhusgahan. Sa aking pananaw, ’yung EO 16 naging moot dahil dito sa provincial board resolution na nagkaroon ng pagbabago sa paggamit ng protocols ng face mask," he explained.
(It is stated in the provincial board resolution that it gives the governor the chance to promulgate implementing rules and regulations for the policy. So we are waiting for that. We will be assisting to ensure that once the details are laid out, it will still be aligned with the national government protocols. For now I will not judge it yet. I believe the EO 16 is now moot because of the provincial board resolution about the changes in the face mask protocol.)
He also said law enforcers will be implementing the national policy in the meantime, while the DILG waits for the IRR.
"Ang sa amin lang, gusto naming ipatupad 'yung protocols as embodied in Executive Order 151 na pinirmahan ni Presidente Duterte. Gusto naming sabihin na lahat ng lokal na gobyerno, 'yung kanilang mga EOs, ordinansa, ay kailangan po naka-align doon hangga't naka-national public health emergency pa po tayo," he told Teleradyo.
(We would like to implement the protocols embodied in Executive Order 151 signed by President Duterte. We would like to tell all local governments that their EOs, ordinances, should be aligned with this order as long as we are under a national public health emergency.)
"In the meantime ang guidance lamang po ni Sec. Año sa ating kapulisan is sitahin pa rin ang hindi naka-face mask. In other words, ignore EO 16 but because mayroon na ngang provincial board resolution, again, moot na 'yung EO 16. Wala pang iniimplement itong optional na pagsusuot, intayin pa natin ang Implementing Rules and Regulations," Densing added.
(In the meantime, Sec. Año instructed the police to reprimand those not wearing face masks. In other words, ignore EO 16, but because of the provincial board resolution, EO 16 is moot. The optional mask policy have yet to be implemented, we have to wait for the Implementing Rules and Regulations.)
Densing said he hopes Garcia will include the DILG in the team that will draft the IRR for her policy.
"Gagawa po ng Implementing Rules and Regulations ang provincial governor and I do hope the DILG will form part of the team that will draft the IRR. Ang gagawin po natin niyan eh we will use our moral suasion para masigurado na 'yung details ng Implementing Rules and Regulations ay naayon sa national government health protocols," he said.
(The governor will come up with Implementing Rules and Regulations and I do hope the DILG will form part of the team that will draft the IRR. We will use our moral suasion to ensure that the details of the Implementing Rules and Regulations are aligned with the national government health protocols.)
Garcia last week issued an executive order making the use of face masks optional in open and well-ventilated places.
The interior department rejected the move and warned that non-wearing of face masks is a violation of IATF resolutions that could result in arrests.
But Garcia on Monday told ANC’s Headstart that there was no legal basis to arrest those who don’t wear face masks outdoors.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said local executives should reach out to the COVID-19 task force instead of opposing it.
The Department of Health also said it is risky for local governments to to lift face mask mandates as COVID-19 cases increase, more transmissible subvariants enter the country, and immunity from vaccines wanes.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año has also said Garcia may face sanctions if her policy leads to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Cebu.
The province of Cebu remains under Alert Level 2 until the end of the month.