President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed that face shields should only be worn inside hospitals, and that as the country's chief executive this is already considered as a new policy according to Malacanang.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque, however, said that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases could still appeal the president's decision.
"Mukhang the President mentioned a new policy," said Roque during the palace press briefing today, June 17. "The IATF is recommendatory, it's composed of all his alter-egos. Nonetheless, this is without prejudice to the IATF appealing to his decision particularly on wearing face shields in enclosed public spaces in schools, workplaces, in commercial establishments such as but not limited to food establishment malls and public markets and public transport and terminals and in places of worship."
"All I'm confirming is, the President said that. Of course what the President says becomes presidential policy," Roque said.
When asked what spurred Duterte to make such a decision, Roque said the discussion focused on whether other countries are also implementing the face shield mandate. This comes as those calling for the easing of the requirement have previously noted that the Philippines is the only country in the world to have such a mandate.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who is the co-chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), said the IATF will tackle the face shield issue today in a meeting.
“We will run this through IATF because we have an IATF meeting later,” said Nograles today in an interview with CNN Philippines when asked about the issue.
Nograles acknowledged that other government officials have already spoken about removing the requirement, but noted that the IATF hasn’t issued a resolution or policy yet.
Senate President Tito Sotto initially shared the information in a tweet following a meeting with the President last night.
“Last night, the President agreed that face shields should only be used in hospitals. Allowed us to remove ours! Attn DOH!,” Sotto said on Twitter.
Yesterday, June 16, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said in a briefing that face shields could be taken off when outdoors.
On Tuesday, June 15, Sotto also asked the Department of Health (DOH) regarding the necessity of using face shields during the Senate hearing on the utilization of the government’s vaccination budget.
“Have you considered discontinuing the use of face shields? Because until now, there are no scientific studies proving the efficacy of face shields. I think we are the only country in the world that is mandating the use of face shields,” Sotto asked the DOH.
“Hindi ba sa mga ospital ginagamit ang face shields dapat? (Shouldn't face shields just be used inside hospitals?)”
In response, DOH Sec. Francisco Duque III said studies say that face shields minimize the risk of transmission.
“Sa mga minimum health standards wearing of face mask po ang required. Yung face shields are just to provide added protection because based on studies kung biglang umubo o bumahing at least 96% protected ka sa eye with the face shield (For minimum health standards, wearing of face mask is required. Face shields are used for added protection because based on studies if someone coughs or sneezes at least there is 96% eye protection with the face shield),” Duque said.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso has also earlier called for the government to remove the face shield requirement, calling it as just an added burden to the public.