Malacañang on Thursday said it will wait for results on the study being conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the experience of Filipinos using face shields as protection against COVID-19 before deciding on whether to scrap them.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark amid public clamor to get rid of the face shield requirement and suspicions that officials may be making money from the sale of face shields.
“I understand that even the WHO will render an expert opinion on whether or not the use of face shields is justified so antayin po natin ang opinyon ng (let’s wait for the opinion of) WHO,” he said in a Palace press briefing.
Roque also ruled out corruption in the government’s purchase of face shields.
“Wala pong relasyon ‘yan. Ang pagsusuot po ng face shields, nakikita niyo naman sa ating presidential press briefings, ay sang-ayon po sa mga opinyon ng eksperto (It has no relation. The use of face shields, you can see from our presidential press briefings, is in accordance to the opinion of experts),” he added.
The Commission on Audit (COA) earlier flagged the Department of Health’s (DOH) transfer of PHP41.8 billion to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) gears, including face masks and face shields.
State auditors said the transfer lacked a memorandum of agreement (MOA), as required by the procurement law’s internal rules on outsourcing procurement tasks.
The Senate also raised suspicion over the face masks and face shields priced at PHP27.72 and PHP120 per piece, respectively.
In a taped speech last week, Duterte said the medical supplies were procured at the height of the Covid-19 outbreak when prices rose due to lack of supply.
“I want to make it on record to the public and everybody that I and the Cabinet knew about it. Sabi ko (I said) go ahead and buy the things you need. Pandemic nga e. Sabi ko emergency ito. Emergency hanggang ngayon (We are in a pandemic. I said this is an emergency and the emergency persists up to the present time),” Duterte said.
On Tuesday, WHO representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe admitted that the Philippines is one of the few countries that advocate the use of face shields in addition to face masks.
“The face shields are being used to reduce the likelihood of infection through the eyes. That’s not actually an additional layer although it boosts the protection provided by poor mask-wearing practices,” Abeyasinghe said.
Abeyasinghe said that while the Philippines was able to “sort of delay the speed of the Delta variant is transmitting, we don’t know if face shield is a contributing factor.”
“While we’re understanding all of these issues, it’s best to look for evidence and make our decision based from that,” he added when asked if the government should scrap its face shield policy.
The government started requiring individuals to wear face shields on top of face masks in December 2020. (PNA)