Looks like we could be headed for a de facto mask-off policy as President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr is set to sign an executive order that makes the wearing of face masks indoors voluntary.
Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco announced at a press briefing today that the decision was reached at a Cabinet meeting after the country’s COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force recommended that indoor mask-wearing be made voluntary, with a few exceptions. Specifically, that people still be required to wear masks while riding public transportation, medical transportation, or in medical facilities such as hospitals.
The president already signed an executive order in September that makes the wearing of face masks outdoors or in open spaces optional.
The Marcos administration is also keen on lifting other COVID-related travel restrictions, with Frasco saying that their easing would put the country on par with others around ASEAN that have “liberalized their mask mandates.”
The government is also looking to ease the restrictions on unvaccinated foreigners entering the country, requiring only that they get a negative antigen test result within 24 hours before departure or take a test upon arrival in the Philippines.
An electronic arrival card, or E-Arrival card, could also replace the current One Health Pass that travelers, both Filipino and foreign, are required to fill out before entry.
The impact this could have on the country’s COVID-19 case numbers remains to be seen. While over 71.5 million Filipinos out of a total population of 112.9 million have received their first and second shots against COVID-19, only 20.48 million have received booster doses.