IATF allows limited religious gatherings in 'NCR Plus' from April 1-4

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 26 2021 11:54 AM | Updated as of Mar 26 2021 02:31 PM

IATF allows limited religious gatherings in 'NCR Plus' from April 1-4 1
Members of the Philippine National Police march outside the Quiapo church as they implement minimum health protocols.

MANILA — Limited religious gatherings will be allowed from April 1 to 4, Malacañang said on Friday, reversing an earlier announcement for Metro Manila and four surrounding provinces.

"Mabuting balita po para sa gustong magsimba ngayong Semana Santa. Pinayagan po ng IATF ang once a day religious gathering mula a-uno hanggang a-cuatro ng Abril," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque. 

(Good news for those who want to go to church this Holy Week: The IATF allowed once a day religious gatherings from April one to 4.)

The inter-agency task force leading the country's pandemic response earlier banned gatherings of more than 10 people in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal—which government called "NCR Plus" bubble area. 

In the new announcement, Roque said religious denominations should limit gatherings to 10 percent of a venue's capacity.

They are urged to roll out a reservation system for those who want to join, he said in a televised public briefing. 

The IATF has also banned religious gatherings outside a church or venue.

To discourage people from flocking outside the venue, the use of audio-video systems there is banned while the mass or religious service is ongoing, he said. 

Live singing will be "strictly limited" and recorded singing is encouraged, Roque added. 

"Hindi lang po ito para sa Simbahang Katolika, lahat po ng pananampalataya kasama na rin po ang ating kapatid na Muslim, mga Shinto, pupuwede pong once a day, 10 percent capacity, April 1 to April 4," he said. 

(This is not just for the Catholic Church. All faiths, including our Muslim, Shinto brothers and sisters, can hold religious gatherings once a day, at 10-percent capacity, from April 1 to April 4.) 

The IATF’s decision was based on the request of the Catholic Church to allow 10% capacity of churches during the Holy Week for areas within the NCR Plus bubble.

During a Department of Health briefing on Friday, Fr. Genaro Diwa of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said they will be coordinating with the police to prevent crowds outside churches.

“Given the allowance of 10% still we ask our people to join us online,” he said, encouraging most of their churchgoers to just observe the Holy Week celebration within their homes.

He said even the rite of washing of the feet during Holy Thursday will not be observed.

“To avoid the contact, Rome (Vatican) suggested we forego of this,” he said.

The IATF imposed additional restrictions like night curfews in the NCR Plus bubble until April 4 to curb an uptick in coronavirus infections. Some businesses in the area were temporarily closed or limited. 

- With a report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Video courtesy of PTV