Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia on Monday defended her policy that makes wearing of face masks in open, well-ventilated areas in the province optional as she maintained that the police cannot apprehend those who opt not to wear their face masks outdoors.
Garcia said Executive Order 16 stays even as the Department of the Interior and Local Government doesn't recognize the new policy.
"It merely states that in open, well-ventilated areas, the use of masks shall be optional. Optional is the operative word here. Those who wish to continue wearing their masks, by all means, they can do that," she told ANC in an interview.
According to Garcia, the use of face masks should be "rationalized" in the sense that they can be taken off in well-ventilated, open environments, and especially when wearing one is becoming a burden to the individual.
"When you're walking in the street under a very hot day, or you are biking or jogging or even when you wish to avail of the beneficial benefits of sea air or fresh air up in the mountains, are we going to continue using these face masks?" she said.
"EO 16 merely rationalizes the use of face mask. It's something that we should have long recognized," she added.
Garcia also questioned the statement of Interior Sec. Eduardo Año that the Philippine National Police would continue to apprehend and arrest, if necessary, individuals violating minimum health standards in Cebu province.
"Why was this not ever done during the campaigns when hundreds of thousands were gathered and many of them without face masks? And then suddenly because I have an executive order, there is the threat of apprehension?" she said.
The governor maintained that as far as her province is concerned, there is no legal basis for apprehending people who do not wear face masks in open, well-ventilated spaces.
"In the province of Cebu, the non-wearing of face mask is not against the law or against any local ordinance. If the police would be apprehending these people, they might be accused of illegal arrest," she added.
Wearing of face masks continue to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, including monkeypox should it reach the Philippines, the Department of Health said Thursday.