Palace: DOH, DOT must find middle ground on face mask policy

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MANILA – Malacañang stated on Wednesday that the Philippines is “seriously” considering proposals to loosen the country’s mandatory face mask policy in light of data indicating that doing so would bolster tourism in the country.

According to Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, the Departments of Health (DOH) and Tourism (DOT) must compromise on relaxing the mask policy.

Cruz-Angeles stated, citing DOT data, that some countries around the world that have loosened face mask policy have seen a tremendous increase in tourist arrivals.

“Nagprisinta ang DOT na in certain states na nagluwag na tungkol sa face mask, tumataas ang tourism nila (The DOT gave a presentation showing that tourism numbers improved in certain states that have relaxed their face mask policy),” she said.

“Gawa nga ng front and center ang ating turismo sa pagbangon ng ekonomiya (Because tourism is front and center in efforts to revive the economy), this matter is being taken seriously,” she added.

The tourism’s contribution to the 2019 gross domestic product (GDP) before the pandemic was PHP2.48 trillion, or at least 12.8 percent of the total economy.

After temporary halts in flights and tourism activities in 2020, tourism’s share to GDP decreased to 5.2 percent in 2021.

Cruz-Angeles, however, stated that the DOH would still have a “major say” on the mandatory face mask policy.

“Kailangan magkatugma ‘yung ating DOH at ang ating DOT and other agencies bago tayo mag-revise ng ating mask policy (The DOH and DOT need to reach a compromise before we revise our mask policy),” she added.

Cebu City released an executive order (EO) last week making the use of face masks non-obligatory in open spaces and most places.

DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire insisted on the wearing of face mask as it scientifically provides 70 to 80 percent protection against Covid-19 and other infectious diseases.

An infectious disease expert, Dr. Rontgene Solante, had also opposed the removal of face masks, stating the presence of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

House committees to hold hearings during break

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Spread the loveMANILA – The House of Representatives has authorized for its committees to conduct hearings during the five-week congressional break, extending until late April.