EVEN as the National Government is set to make masking voluntary in indoor areas, local government units (LGUs) still have the authority to make it mandatory if it chooses to.

This was the clarification made by the Department of Health (DOH), saying it is not prohibited for LGUs to exercise their mandate to impose stricter health protocols.

“The local governments have that prerogative of imposing this kind of mandates, for example in masking,” said Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire in a press conference Friday, October 28, 2022.

She said such a mandate may be imposed “as long as they are aligned with the protocols or policies” of the National Government.

Vergeire cited as example the actions of the cities of Manila and San Juan, which plan on implementing mandatory face mask policies in the observance of “Undas” this weekend.

“Both cities and their mayors are aligned with the national protocols for voluntary use of mask outdoors. If there is crowding, which happens during Undas, it is already considered high risk. This is why our mayors are imposing this kind of mandate in masking,” said Vergeire.

On Tuesday, October 25, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco announced that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has approved the voluntary wearing of face masks in indoor areas, with an executive order (EO) set to be issued.

According to the recommendations of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, the wearing of face masks in indoor settings shall be optional except in healthcare facilities, medical transport, and public transport.

Vergeire said the EO is expected to be issued by Malacañang “in the coming days.”

“We are not certain as to when it is going to come out, but I think it’s going to come out in the coming days,” she said. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)