MANILA, Nov 3 (Mabuhay) —  — Wearing of face masks in workplaces in the private sector is now voluntary in line with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s order making it optional in indoor spaces, the Department of Labor and Employment said Wednesday.

Wearing of facemask is now optional indoors per Labor Advisory No. 22, Series of 2022, titled “Guidelines on the Voluntary Wearing of Face Marks in Workplaces”. (MNS photo)

Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma said he signed Labor Advisory No. 22, Series of 2022, titled “Guidelines on the Voluntary Wearing of Face Marks in Workplaces”.

“Yan naman ay nag-take off dun sa Executive Order No. 7 ng ating Pangulong Bongbong Marcos na lumabas noong October 28… Essentially, ang sinasabi namin diyan, yung wearing even in workplaces shall be voluntary except yung mga identified places,” he said.

The exempted settings are the following:

Healthcare facilities, including but not limited to clinics, hospitals, laboratories, nursing homes and dialysis clinics

Medical transport vehicles such as ambulances and paramedic rescue vehicles

Public transportation by land, sea or air

DOLE

Asked to elaborate on the voluntary mandate, Laguesma said, “Ibig sabihin walang pilitan. Subalit sa advisory, sinasabi diyan na ang employer at ating manggagawa, meron silang tinatawag na shared responsibility para tiyakin na merong safe at healthful working conditions.”

As with EO 7, the elderly, immunocompromised, unvaccinated and symptomatic individuals, individuals with comorbidities, and pregnant women in workplaces are highly encouraged to wear face masks.

“Employers and their workers may implement a policy requiring the wearing of face masks, taking into account, among others, the hazards and risks (e.g., enclosed space and poor ventilation), industry requirements (e.g., food safety), and incidence of other communicable diseases (e.g., flu and tuberculosis), including measures to address non-compliance thereto pursuant to the company policy, rules and regulations,” the labor advisory stated.

“Dapat siguro magkaroon pa rin ng pagtupad at pagsunod sa conditions o requirements na makakatulong upang matiyak na pangunahin ang kalusugan at kaligtasan ng atin pong mga manggagawa,” Laguesma said.

He said the advisory will be effective “as soon as it is actually issued, released by the Department of Labor and Employment”, although he acknowledges that private firms normally issue a corresponding memorandum for their employees.

Asked if malls must comply with the DOLE advisory or await any order from local governments, Laguesma said, “Kami, gumagabay lang… Sinikap namin sundan yung Executive Order No. 7…, yung provisions ng Labor Code at sinynchronize natin sa Occupational Safety and Health Law… Kami, makikipag-ugnayan kami sa ating mga employers kasi sila naman ang pinapatungkulan namin nito, hindi lang mga manggagawa, para nang sa ganun, hindi magkaroon ng pagkatigil ng operasyon, muling pagsasara at pagkawala ng trabaho ng ating mga manggagawa.”

He said mall owners may use and follow the advisory because they are not exempted. “Lahat naman ng nasasaklawan ng Labor Code of the Philippines at saka ng ating Republic Act ay dapat mag-comply sa inilalabas na advisory o kaya Implementing Rules and Regulations ng ating Department of Labor and Employment. Kasi nandun sa amin yung mandato.”

Government workplaces, meanwhile, need to await any order on the matter from the Civil Service Commission, the DOLE chief said.

The Department of Health earlier in the day reported 775 new cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines, pushing the country’s total to 4,005,840 since the pandemic began.

The DOH, on the same day, said it is up to the Department of Education to decide what is best for students with regard to implementing COVID-19 protocols in schools.

The health department made the remark after DepEd recently announced it would allow the voluntary use of face masks in classrooms.

The DOH reminded the public that multiple layers of protection such as wearing masks, ensuring good ventilation and getting vaccinated, are effective against COVID-19. (MNS)