MANILA - Senators on Tuesday questioned the health department again regarding the country's mandatory face shield use in public areas, even in the absence of recommendations from international health experts.
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon emphasized the United States' Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization's (WHO) statements on the use of face shields to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
Face shields were among the items procured by the health department through the Department of Budget and Management's procurement service (PS-DBM), which costs P122 each, considered "overpriced" according to senators.
“Both the WHO and the CDC do not have recommendations on making wearing face shields a policy pero pinilit ‘nyo yan limpak limpak ang face shield ang inorder ‘nyo," said Gordon.
"Anlaking bilyong ang inabot nyan, daang milyon. PS-DBM and all you folks out there, hindi ko kayo nilalahat, is a kingdom unto itself. May sarili kayong kaharipan answerable only to the president," he added.
But Health Secretary Francisco Duque III clarified that the face shields were part of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs).
“Yung mga face shields na binili kasama po part of the PPEs. Meron din kasing resolution noong Dec. 14, 2020 IATF through resolution 88 reiterated the use of face shield for all persons. So this is an IATF policy and we again reiterate are for healthcare workers," according to Duque.
But Gordon responded that this resolution by IATF was recalled by the President last June.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, on the other hand, recalled how President Rodrigo Duterte had changed his mind easily when he took back his statement on being against the use of face shields.
Palace Spokesperson Harry Roque, days after Duterte issued the statement, said the President wants its mandatory use in the public.
“There was a retraction by the President but eventually [changed his postion] when the President invited the technical advisory group of experts. The experts said that for outdoors, it is not going to be mandatory, it is going to be permissible," he said.
Duque, meanwhile, said the President met with health experts through Zoom.
“Eh dapat kami nakausap ni presidente hindi kayo," Sotto said.
Video from the Senate of the Philippines
Last week, WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said his organization is "looking at the Philippine experience" in wearing face shields, but so far, evidence has yet to show that the added layer of supposed protection has helped the country in delaying the spread of the Delta variant.
Several senators and local officials have been urging the DOH to lift the requirement for the public to don face shields when going out, noting that several countries were successful in curbing the spread of COVID-19 even without face shields.
Duterte has denied that there is corruption in the procurement of face shields and other pandemic supplies.
- Reports from Johnson Manabat, ABS-CBN News