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Cebu has three days to alter its face mask ordinance, according to the DILG.

MANILA, Philippines — On Thursday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano issued the Cebu provincial government a three-day deadline to amend a recently-passed law that made wearing face masks in open and well-ventilated venues in the province optional.

“We will give the Cebu province government, governor, and councilors the opportunity to revise, rectify, and adapt their ordinances and EOs to be consistent with EO 151 and the recommendations in the execution of the alert level system that is part of EO 151.” We’ll give them an opportunity to correct this over the weekend. “We’ll do whatever is necessary after the weekend,” Ano stated at a press conference in Camp Crame.

The Cebu provincial board’s ordinance, according to Ano, cannot override President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) 151, which requires the wearing of face masks throughout the country except in certain cases.

He highlighted that until September 12, 2022, the country is still in a condition of public health emergency and tragedy.

“Cebu Province is still on Level 2 Alert, and we’re seeing an increase in instances.” Now is not the time to rest on your laurels. “Across the country, there should only be one policy,” he stated.

Ano also stated that the Philippine National Police (PNP) will strictly implement the President’s mandatory face mask rule in Cebu and that any officers who refuse to obey orders from higher authorities will be dismissed from duty.

“We can’t just ignore the laws of the land.” Even if Cebu province passed a provincial ordinance making face masks optional, he declared, “such law is void and legally infirm, and incapable of superseding EOs of the President of the Philippines.”

If the Cebu provincial government refuses to comply with the mask directive, the President’s Office has directed them to exhaust all legal procedures, according to Ano.

“We want to underline how superior these EOs are to LGU ordinances. Local governments are essentially agents of the national government, and local sanggunians (councils) only wield powers that the national government has granted to them. In the national government, hindi naman puwede na masusunod pa ang mga LGU (We cannot allow the situation where LGUs prevail over the national government). Obviously, the delegate cannot wield more influence than its principal,” Ano explained.

According to data from the DILG provincial office in Cebu, at least 20 local government units (LGUs) in the province, including Alegria, Aloguinsan, Badia, Carmen, Compostela, Medellin, Talisay City, and Tuburan, have already passed ordinances requiring the use of face masks and adherence to minimum public health standards (MPHS).

He believes that enforcing the mask mandate will ensure that other LGUs do not follow Cebu’s lead.

“We don’t want to set a precedent for other local government units.” Because we are still in the midst of a pandemic with additional transmissible variations emerging, we must follow the MPHS, which includes wearing face masks, in order to finally eradicate this epidemic,” he stated.

The Department of Health previously rejected proposals to repeal the mask requirement, citing the presence of multiple cases of the highly transmissible Omicron subvariant in the country.

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