Philippines Now Done With Masks, Almost

The Philippines has dispensed with the mandatory requirement for face masks with an Executive Order signed by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. This is part of the country’s plans to revitalize tourism and bolster the economy, which has taken a serious hit due to the pandemic. With visitor numbers falling, President Marcos Jr. wants to signal to the world and regional neighbors that his country is ready to welcome travellers back.

Masks Off for the Philippines

Still, the order allows for the use of voluntary masks indoors, albeit masks remain obligatory for health care facilities, medical transport vehicles, and the public transportation system across the country. Executive Order 07 was promulgated over the weekend, and it is part of the sustained recovery from COVID-19 that the region has been undergoing.

Countries in Southeast Asia have all pushed forward towards the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Even China has introduced an eVisa format that effectively enables mainlanders to travel to Macau and play there.

The U-turn from restrictive measures has to do with the fairly successful global vaccination campaign that helped tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the worst the world has experienced, with the virus taking over entire countries, and placing megapolises under lock and key. The Philippines has felt the sting of these mass restrictions. The gambling industry, though, has proven a solid backbone of the health care system in the country.

PAGCOR, which is being assaulted by the current administration and private interest groups, has been contributing hefty amounts in terms of revenue to the state coffers. The regulator and operator of gaming products in the Philippines has been doing very well in supporting various healthcare initiatives and has helped the financially ailing system weather the worst of the pandemic.

Regardless, there have been vociferous calls to privatize the company as it is inefficient, according to some, and to even scrap the lucrative POGO sector, which has ruffled feathers in China.

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