MANILA - The government has started rolling out the distribution of locally-made washable masks to indigents, an official from the country's health department said, as the COVID-19 threat remains.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they seek to distribute 13 million masks to indigents, and that the distribution would run until they reach the target.
This, she said, was to help poor communities comply with minimum health standards, citing that some families may not afford to buy masks.
"Para po mahikayat natin na magcomply sa minimum health standards lalo na 'yung ating mga kababayan so magbibigay po ang ating national government ng local (masks) sa mga kababayan natin sa sektor na ito," Vergeire said in a press briefing.
(This is to encourage them to comply with minimum health standards, that's why our national government will give out locally manufactured mask to our countrymen in this sector.)
The Philippines, which was placed on quarantine in March to curb the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) spread, has been implementing minimum health standards such as physical distancing, wearing of face masks when going outdoors, and using face shields when in public transport and malls, among others.
Violators face fines or apprehension, depending on local ordinances.
Experts have also reiterated that the use of washable masks is most suitable for citizens who will go out just to do essential chores such as groceries, and the like.
Vergeire encouraged local manufacturers to produce more masks to help the government meet its target as soon as possible
The Bayanihan to Recover as One bill, which is up for the President's signature, prioritizes procuring medical supplies from local manufacturers to help them cope with the economic effects of the pandemic, Vergeire said.
"Hinihikayat natin ang local manufacturers na mag-produce at the same manner matutulugnan natin ang local industry kasama ito sa Bayanihan 2 na dapat may priority tayo sa pagprocure ng locally manufactured logistics para sa response na ito," Vergeire said.
(We are encouraging local manufacturers to produce and at the same manner, we help the local industry. The Bayanihan 2 also indicates that the government should prioritize procuring items from local sellers for this response.)