City council stops short of suspending of mask mandate

The Iloilo City council is treading carefully on the proposal to ease the mask mandate in open public areas. (Joseph B.A. Marzan photo)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

The Iloilo City Council on Wednesday almost approved a proposed ordinance that would totally suspend the face mask mandate in the city.

But councilors placed the brakes on the proposed ordinance, saying that its language may push the public to shun wearing face masks at all amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Councilors Romel Duron and Sedfrey Cabaluna highlighted that it would be dangerous to just generally suspend City Regulation Ordinance No. 2020-061, as amended, as it would give the idea that mask-wearing was no longer mandated in the city.

Duron struck a reprimanding tone, telling proponent Councilor Ely Estante to explicitly distinguish between indoor and outdoor public places, as the current ordinance only provides for “public places”.

He added that it would contravene President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s Executive Order No. 3, which provides for the optional wearing of masks only in open areas with proper ventilation.

Duron raised the point after Estante tried to justify that the “public places” in the ordinance referred only to open-air spaces.

“[Marcos Jr.] is only directing the voluntary wearing of face masks outdoors, while your ordinance refers to both outdoor and indoor, so you are now calling for total suspension. I just want to make it clear so that the public would understand,” Duron told Estante.

Cabaluna backed his senior colleague by simplifying its impact on the public when they go around the city. He suggested harmonizing the ordinance with Marcos Jr.’s EO.

“There’s a danger when we declare a suspension of the face mask ordinance, because the public will interpret that it’s no longer needed. The direction should be to harmonize with the national declaration,” Cabaluna said.

Estante heeded the suggestion of Councilor Alan Zaldivar to refer the proposed ordinance to the city council’s Committee on Health for study, review, and recommendation.

The proposed ordinance was based on an indorsement by Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas to the Sanggunian’s presiding officer, Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon, citing the presidential edict.