You will begin to see fewer people wearing face masks in the towns within Cebu Province.
The Cebu Provincial Government has removed face mask protocols in open and well-ventilated spaces in areas under different districts on Cebu island.
Since the EO was approved immediately on June 8, 2022, travelers and residents may leave their houses without wearing a face mask.
The Philippine government has included wearing face masks as a health protocol during the COVID-19 pandemic. This mandate is said to be very effective in improving the pandemic situation in the country.
Cebu Province is currently under Alert Level 2, the second lowest alert level implemented by the Inter-Agency Task Force.
The number of cases has lessened ever since the outbreak in 2020. Some of Cebu’s most popular tourist spots have since returned to resuming operations.
The provincial government also removed the swab test results as a requirement for fully vaccinated travelers visiting the island, making it much easier to enter the province.
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia pointed out that this is a “necessary step towards the new normal,” stating that other countries have already implemented it.
GUIDELINES FOR FACE MASKS IN CEBU PROVINCE
The ruling under Executive Order 16 mandates the optional use of masks in well-ventilated areas, like outdoors or in less populated locations.
There is less risk of infection in these well-ventilated areas since the fresh air disperses the respiratory particles that may be carrying the virus.
However, you have to wear your face mask in enclosed and crowded venues.
Additionally, individuals with symptoms of COVID, such as fever, colds, and coughs, will have to wear their masks at all times or stay at home.
Regardless, the EO does not remove face masks entirely, so you can still wear them if you are concerned about getting infected. The pandemic is far from over as the COVID-19 virus is still present, so keep this in mind.
The EO has garnered some concern from government units and experts about its risks to the Cebuano people.
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the agency in charge of different local government units, issued a statement showing its disapproval of the EO.
DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said that the police will still be apprehending individuals not wearing masks, as the IATF guidelines approved by outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte are still in effect.
Duterte vowed that wearing face masks be implemented as long as he is President. His term will end on June 30, 2022.
The Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO 7) assured the implementation of the DILG’s mandate, even if the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO) announced its decision to follow the provincial government’s orders.
According to CPPO chief Engelbert Soriano, since the provincial government approved the EO, it will take effect immediately, and only the proper authority can invalidate it.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Rontgene Solante also pointed out that there is still a risk of infection when you are outdoors and that only fully vaccinated individuals should be allowed to remove their masks.
Garcia reiterated that this could ease the burden on those fatigued by the government’s health protocols.
WHAT PLACES ARE PART OF THIS MANDATE?
The EO will affect cities and municipalities under the Cebu Provincial Government, separated into seven districts:
- Carcar City
- City of Naga
- Talisay City
- San Fernando
- Toledo City
- Bogo City
- San Remigio
- Santa Fe
- Danao City
- San Francisco
The EO does not include Cebu City, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu City, so the mask mandate is still applicable in these metro cities.
However, like most parts of the city, the aforementioned three are already placed in Alert Level 1 (the lowest alert level implemented by the IATF).
Cebu Province is the first local government unit to remove the face mask mandate. While this may improve tourism in the Philippines, keep in mind that COVID is still pretty much present, and that some agencies and experts have expressed their concerns.
Always remember to follow the remaining protocols and be responsible. While there are many things you can do in Cebu, be cautious, especially when among a large crowd or in a poorly ventilated venue.
The removal of face masks is still a welcome departure from the strict healthcare protocols of the past two years.
While the possibility of more government units easing their restrictions is possible, we should continue to be responsible travelers by wearing masks indoors, using alcohol, and practicing social distancing.