The Executive Order of the City of Cebu that makes the wearing of face masks in the city's open spaces non-obligatory is "opposing" the protocols implemented by the national government, the Department of Health said Friday, 2 September.
"In the [IATF] resolution, we are mandated to wear our masks all the time. This is part of our minimum public health standards, however, in their resolution, they made it optional," Health Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a media briefing.
"Let me just reiterate that this [resolution] has opposed the resolutions and protocols that have been resolved and implemented by the Inter-agency Task Force and the national government," Vergeire added.
She noted that local government units (LGUs) are expected to follow the protocols set by the national government.
During these times of public health emergency, the local governments are ordered to follow the protocols of the national government even if they knew their situation on the ground," she stressed.
"When the national government implements protocols, this is for the public health and this is for the entire population," she added.
Vergeire also expressed concern that Cebu City's EO may be a precedent for other LGUs to follow suit and implement their masking policy.
"That is one of our worries because we know that if actions like these will continue, other LGUs may follow suit and that would be really disastrous for all of us," she said.
She explained that having a different masking policy per area would not work as other people travel from one area to another.
"When we make the masking voluntary, we now then make the risk of people in this area higher to get Covid-19," she said.
The Health chief urged the local government to implement the existing protocols advised by the IATF.
"We need to have a one-nation approach. We need to be united from the local government up to the national level," she said.
"Just imagine if one or two or three LGUs are implementing different protocols, what will happen to us when the virus process orders?" she asked.
Vergeire also clarified she never said that the LGU of Cebu need to consult the Health department regarding its resolution.
"Let me just reiterate that we never said that they need to consult us first. We know that it is not within our mandate, it should have been the DILG," she said.
The statement came after Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama said that he felt offended after getting the impression that he should have consulted the DoH regarding the controversial local order.
Last Wednesday, Vergeire said that LGU of Cebu City did not consult the Health department with its EO.