MANILA - The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) on Friday clarified that only the visa for Umrah is temporarily suspended due to concerns over the infectious coronavirus disease.
"Ang suspended po na visa ay ung Umrah pilgrimage. Yung Hajj pilgrimage hindi po. Tuloy-tuloy po yung Hajj pilgrimage, meron tayong lead time dyan mga 4 months from now kasi July 1 yung first flight ng Hajj pilgrimage," said NCMF Sec. Saidamen Pangarungan.
(The Umrah pilgrimage visa is the one that is suspended, not the Hajj pilgrimage. We have a 4-month lead time for the Hajj pilgrimage where the first flight will be on July 1.)
On DZMM, Pangarungan explained the difference between the two Islamic pilgrimages.
Unlike the Hajj, which is mandatory and must be performed within a specific period of time, Umrah pilgrimage is optional and can be done at any time of the year.
"This year, ang Hajj pilgrimage will be on July 30. Yung Hajj pilgrimage, yan ang one of the 5 pillars of Islam. Mandatory yan," he said.
(The Hajj pilgrimage will be on July 30. The Hajj pilgrimage is one of the 5 pillars of Islam. That's mandatory.)
The Hajj pilgrimage attracts millions of Muslim around the world.
Last year, Pangarungan said 7,234 pilgrims from the Philippines performed Hajj in Saudi Arabia. This year, they are targetting to send around 8,000 to 9,000 Hajj pilgrims.
"Optional ang Umrah at short lang ang duration (Umrah is optional and the duration is short). It can be performed in a matter of hours. Simple lang yung ritwal sa Umrah unlike sa Hajj, matagal ang performance ng Hajj aabutin ng 7 araw (the ritual is simple in Umrah and can be done in hours unlike in Hajj where it takes about 7 days)," he said.
Not a lot of Muslim Filipino perform Umrah, he said.
"Based on our records hindi aabot ng 1,500. Ang pinakamaraming nag-Umrah during the month of Ramadan. This year, it will start April 24 yung Ramadan natin. Outside the Ramadan month, mga 500 lang nagu-Umrah," he said.
(Based on our records it’s around 1,500. Majority perform Umrah during the month of Ramadan. This year, Ramadan will start in April 24. Outside the Ramadan month, only about 500 perform Umrah.)
Both Islamic pilgrimages draw huge crowd, which raises concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
"In the history of Hajj, wala pang incident na na-cancel yung Hajj pilgrimage even at the height of SARS at MERS epidemic tuloy-tuloy pa rin ang Hajj because the Saudi government is taking all the precautionary measures na hindi makapasok yung epidemic," he said
(In the history of Hajj, there has never been an incident where it was canceled even at the height of SARS and MERS epidemic because the Saudi government is taking all the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus to the Kingdom.)
But Pangarungan explained that every pilgrim must get the meningococcal and flu vaccine shots before they can go on Hajj.
"Without these 2 vaccines, a pilgrim cannot go to Saudi Arabia," he said.