Abalos asks Rama to delay implementation of non-mandatory wearing of face masks in Cebu City

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin ‘Benhur’ Abalos Jr. has asked Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to defer the implementation of the decision that no longer mandates the wearing of face masks in open spaces.

Abalos issued the statement after learning that Rama signed an executive order making the wearing of face masks in Cebu City's open spaces non-obligatory.

“Pinakiusapan ko po si Mayor Mike Rama na baka puwede namang Mayor Mike, marami tayong batas na ganito, okay lang ba sa’yo baka pupwedeng i-defer natin muna (Non-madatory of face mask wearing) tapos ito’y ire-refer ko sa IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) (I requested Mayor Mike Rama if it is alright to postpone the implementation of his new policy since we haver many laws like this and then i will refer it to the IATF),’’ Abalos said Wednesday night, Aug. 31 in an interview over ABS-CBN.

Abalos noted that Rama was amenable to his call and in return guaranteed the Cebu City mayor that he will prioritize his move to possibly make the wearing of face masks non-mandatory outdoors.

"Ako’y nakiusap po talaga sa kaniya para ‘wag namang magkalituhan (I pleaded with him to avoid any confusion),’’ he added praising Rama for his nice response.

Although he understands the reasons behind the relaxation of the mask-wearing policy, Abalos maintained that there are laws that need to be followed especially since the country is still in a state of public health emergency.

He vowed to raise the issue and discuss it with the IATF, telling the local chief executives (LCE) to still enforce the face mask regulations until a decision is made.

"I assure them (LCE) within one week or the most is two weeks, mayroon na kaagad sagot dito (I assure them within one week or the most is two weeks, we will have a ready answer to this),’’ Abalos stated.

The DILG chief also expressed willingness to pilot test the relaxed mask wearing mandate in Cebu City in order to see whether it can also be implemented nationwide.

Abalos reiterated that there are rules governing the face mask rule but at the same time vowed to fight, sponsor this issue at the IATF and tell them to pilot test the policy in Cebu City. (Chito A. Chavez)