Palace defends face shield policy anew, citing added protection. Some users say it’s for business.

September 7, 2021 - 12:06 PM
Filipinos waiting to be vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) gather outside a mall, a day before stricter lockdown measures are implemented, in Manila, Philippines, August 5, 2021. (Reuters/Lisa Marie David/File Photo)

The national government stood by its face shield policy, citing added protection from COVID-19 variants that are rapidly spreading in the country.

The opposition against face shields strengthened following the controversy of a local supplier of it erupted last August.

In a briefing on September 6, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque claimed that face shields are effective in protecting the eyes from COVID-19 infections.

“Epektibo po ‘yan sa pagbigay sa proteksyon ating mga mata, dahil pwedeng pumasok ang COVID-19 sa ating mga mata,” Roque said.

President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Health have also previously provided the same arguments in defending the mandatory use of face shields.

READ: Curfews, face shields: A dig at COVID-19 measures as Philippines detects Lambda variant

Duterte cited the threat of the Delta variant as his reason for retaining the policy.

“Now, I will agree with you considering that this D variant is very aggressive and it can proliferate in so much short period of time,” he said last June.

READ: Final directive? Duterte retains face shield protocol after varying announcements from officials

Since it was implemented last year, there has been no sufficient scientific proof to back up the effectiveness of face shields, particularly the plastic ones in the market, in preventing people from contracting COVID-19.

Two academics have previously noted that a face shield may offer an advantage but is not overall effective in stopping aerosol or airborne transmission.

In a recent update about their COVID-19 information, the World Health Organization stated that the virus can spread through the air in some settings.

“The virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time. This is because aerosols remain suspended in the air or travel farther than one meter (long-range),” WHO said in its December 2020 briefer.

Stronger criticisms vs face shields

Last August, a local company Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation was under fire after the Senate probe found it has questionable contracts for face masks and shields with the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management.

Some social media users raised these alleged anomalies in their criticisms against wearing face shields.

“Will the doctor who pushed face shields stand up and maybe say something about how the face shield mandate only exists to enable a massive procurement scam?” one user said.

“Finally, the Filipino people know the real reason why the PH is the only country where wearing of face shield is mandatory,” another user wrote.

Parody account Malacañang Events and Catering Services also joined in the criticisms through a witty meme.

It shared an edited screenshot from the earlier Palace briefing wherein Roque appeared to be in a shopping channel for face shields.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros also claimed that the top executives of Pharmally are wanted in Taiwan for financial fraud.

This came after it bagged pandemic contracts worth P8.68 billion with the government despite only being established in September 2019.

In a statement, Sen. Franklin Drilon urged top executives of Pharmally to voluntarily face the ongoing Senate investigation.

“They know that the hearings are going on. Why have they not volunteered and come up and said, ‘I’m here and I’m willing to explain all of this.’ Why?” Drilon said.

Drilon stated that the upper chamber had already issued subpoenas for them. However, no official has appeared even after three hearings.

The Senate investigation was conducted in light of the recent Commission on Audit assessment that found mishandled funds from several government agencies in 2020.