COVID-19 Crisis: President Marcos approves optional use of face masks outdoors

After much online buzz that was created in reaction to the recommendation by the Inter-Agency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., finally approved an executive order (EO) that allows the optional use of face masks outdoors according to an announcement published through the Philippine News Agency (PNA). In other words, what the IATF recommended is quickly becoming a new policy but there are key details that need to be read closely.

To put things in perspective, posted below is the excerpt from the PNA article. Some parts in boldface…

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has approved an executive order (EO) allowing the voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings, particularly in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation.

“Naglabas po tayo today ng Executive Order No. 3 (We have released EO No. 3) allowing voluntary wearing of face masks in outdoor settings and reiterating the continued implementation of minimum public health standards during the state of public health emergency relating to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles announced in a Palace press briefing.

She said the EO, signed by the President on Monday, will be effective immediately.

This order shall take effect immediately upon its publication in the OG [Official Gazette] or newspaper of general circulation. Nasa OG na po siya (It has been published in the OG),” she said.

Under the EO, those who have yet to complete their primary Covid-19 vaccination series, senior citizens, and immunocompromised persons are still “highly encouraged” to use face masks.

Cruz-Angeles said physical distancing and other minimum public health standards (MPHS) will also continue to be strictly enforced.

“The voluntary wearing of face masks in open spaces and non-crowded outdoor areas with good ventilation is hereby allowed provided that not fully vaccinated individuals, senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals are highly encouraged to wear their masks and physical distancing will be observed at all times,” she added.

The EO still requires face masks to be worn in indoor, private or public establishments, including in public transportation by land, air or sea and in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

“Tuloy pa rin po ang other (We will continue adhering to other) minimum public health standards intended to effectively prevent and minimize the spread of Covid-19 in the country. It shall continue to be implemented consistent with the principles of shared accountability, evidence-based decision making, socio economic equity and rights-based approach,” Cruz-Angeles said.

She said the EO also directs the Department of Health (DOH) to update the MPHS guidelines.

Open to feedback

Cruz-Angeles said the voluntary wearing of face masks will be implemented in phases or stages to gather feedback from health authorities.

We’re doing this in stages, in phases so that we can have feedback on whether or not these new policies are working and how to make them more efficient so that hopefully by the end of the year we might be able to be voluntarily masked indoors as well,” she said.

She said the policy will be reviewed if the voluntary face mask policy would cause an increase in Covid-19 cases.

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: What is your reaction to this new development? Do you believe that the entire Philippines and its many local government units (LGUs) are ready to comply with the new policy approved by President Marcos? If you have not been vaccinated for COVID-19, do you seriously see yourself using face masks extensively in the future? Do you think that the anti-vaccine fanatics will spread fear and distort information related to the new policy that allows the optional use of face masks in outdoor settings? With the way things are right now, have you grown sick and tired of using face masks each time you go outdoors?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.

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President Marcos on nuclear power plants in the Philippines

Last March, I highlighted an article published by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) related to nuclear power for the Philippines. Personally, I favor the use of nuclear power and the construction of nuclear power plants in the Philippines not just because it will provide clean and abundant energy but also because technologies and other means related to it all have advanced through the years. 

That being said, it was good that our new President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., mentioned nuclear power during the recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) specifically referring to the nation’s strategy towards building new nuclear power plants.

To put things in perspective, posted below is an excerpt from the GMA News report. Some parts in boldface…

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. again expressed his desire to adopt nuclear energy as part of the country’s power mix, but said the government’s strategy has to be rethought.

I believe it is time to re-examine our strategy towards building nuclear power plants in the Philippines,” Marcos said in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.

Marcos, however, did not mention the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), a project during his late father Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s regime which has been mothballed for more than three decades.

In 1976, Marcos Sr. ordered the construction of the $2.3-billion BNPP, but it was shelved after three years due to safety concerns.

The Duterte administration had pegged the cost of reviving the BNPP at around $1 billion.

The President, instead, said that “there have been new technologies developed that allow smaller scale modular nuclear plants and other derivations thereof.

In October 2019, Russian State Nuclear Energy Corp. (Rosatom) Overseas JSC and the Department of Energy (DOE) signed a memorandum of intent on cooperation to conduct a pre-feasibility study on the construction in the Philippines of nuclear power plants based on small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

Nevertheless, Marcos said the Philippines will comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regulations for nuclear power plants “as they have been strengthened after Fukushima.

The President said that public-private partnerships will play a role in realizing the goal of adopting nuclear power.

In the Philippine Senate, there is already support for President Marcos’ plan. Posted below is an excerpt from the Philippine News Agency article. Some parts in boldface…

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Tuesday he will fully support the plan of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to explore the country’s potentials on nuclear energy as a cheap and reliable source.

Marcos said in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday that if the country wants to attract investors, both local and foreign, energy-level production must be increased.

“Why not? We are one of the few countries that have not looked at the nuclear option in Southeast Asia. The countries that are developing nuclear power in Asia — Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, even Singapore, are looking at the nuclear option, smaller nuclear power plants, and even Myanmar. We’re already left behind,” Zubiri said in an interview with a news channel.

Despite being a renewable energy advocate, as evidenced by the Renewable Energy Act which he authored, Zubiri admitted that there are not enough efforts to produce the energy requirement the country needs over the next six years.

If you want to have an 8-percent GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate, we better have an energy sector that is robust, that can deliver the power the different industries need to be able to power other programs and projects,” he said.

A nuclear power plant, Zubiri said, might take six years to develop starting from its infancy, but can deliver thousands of megawatts from a single plant.

He said the facility must be built right, strong enough to withstand calamities, and away from earthquake faults.

Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, a known environmentalist, said she is open to exploring the possibility of nuclear energy but it must be considered “clean energy”.

“I may not be an expert in nuclear energy. I am open to hearing discussions and consultations with various stakeholders and experts in science on nuclear energy. I have read that nuclear energy is said to be clean. However, what about the nuclear waste? I am interested to know how it will be handled. At the same time, the safety measures,” she said.

Senator Francis Tolentino is likewise in favor of nuclear energy, which he learned has zero emission.

Meanwhile, the government of France is willing to help the Philippines on nuclear power development. France itself has been a major nuclear power player and therefore their willingness to share their expertise is significant for Filipinos. Posted below is an excerpt from the PNA article. Some parts in boldface…

The French government is keen to help the Philippines develop its nuclear power program as the Marcos administration looks for other reliable sources of energy.

French Ambassador Michèle Boccoz said the embassy has met with some of the Cabinet members and nuclear power was listed among the key areas Paris and Manila could cooperate on.

“(T)here’s obviously an interest. As I said, we have an experience and expertise in many different sectors of renewable energy, including the nuclear sector,” Boccoz said at a reception in Makati City on Tuesday.

She said working on small modular reactors is “probably much more realistic” than reviving the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

“I think that this is a thing of the past because the technologies have evolved so much that it wouldn’t really make sense to work to build this kind of project and it’s probably too big and it probably needs too much of the grid to be operational,” she added.

“So having a sort of more modular systems is probably much more realistic and also in terms of the terrain here and the systemic risks and others. These are much smaller units that can be much more easily protected.”

Boccoz, meanwhile, clarified that talks are still in the “very early stages” as Manila has to put in place a framework first.

Let me end this piece by asking you readers: What do you think about the renewed national interest about nuclear power? Are the climate change extremists and modern day Leftists still lying to you that nuclear power is bad while unreliable energy forms like solar and wind power are better? Are you willing to give nuclear power in the Philippines a chance?

You may answer in the comments below. If you prefer to answer privately, you may do so by sending me a direct message online.

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Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. If you want to support my website, please consider making a donation. Feel free to contact me with a private message. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me on Twitter at  @HavenorFantasy as well as on Tumblr at https://carlocarrasco.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram athttps://www.instagram.com/authorcarlocarrasco/.