City Hall reimposes indoor mask mandate

Rising COVID-19 cases compel Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas to reimpose mandatory wearing of face masks in indoor areas. (F.A. Angelo)

By Joseph B.A. Marzan

Masking indoors is now required again in Iloilo City.

A new executive order issued on Tuesday codified national advisories on voluntary and mandatory mask-wearing but did not provide for penalties on individuals and establishments who will not follow.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas issued Executive Order No. 048 series of 2023, which mandates the wearing of face masks for indoor public and private establishments, in all public transport (air, land, or sea), and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Masks are voluntary in open spaces and “non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation,” but individuals who are either partially vaccinated or unvaccinated for COVID-19, as well as immunocompromised persons and senior citizens, are “strongly encouraged” to keep on their masks and practice 1-meter distancing at all times, even while in outdoor settings.

This was merely a reiteration of the Local Health Board Advisory No. 1, also issued by the mayor, on Wednesday, April 19.

Both issuances cited Department of Health (DOH) Department Memorandum No. 2022-0433 and Executive Order No. 03 series of 2022 by the Office of the President.

But unlike previous issuances in the past 3 years, this new edict did not set penalties on violators.

When asked for an explanation, Treñas said via Viber message: “At the moment saway lang kita! We are banking on the cooperation of the Ilonggos[.]”

The mayor was also mum whether penal provisions of City Regulation Ordinance No. 2020-061 (Mandatory Face Mask Ordinance), as amended, would be applicable.

For the past three weeks, the city government, including the mayor and local health officials, has been advising the public to wear masks due to the continued rise of COVID-19 cases in the city this month.

In previous instances, however, Treñas stopped short of clearly stating whether he would be mandating the wearing of face masks anew.

The City Health Office’s data, citing that of the DOH, indicated that cases this month have risen to 84 (April 1 to 23), the second-highest in the region.

On Monday, COVID-19 focal person Dr. Roland Jay Fortuna stated that they would actively campaign again for vaccinations and booster shot administrations in the city.