Task force studying reopening churches with smaller Masses

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 28 2020 03:33 PM

Youth volunteers put marks reminding people to observe physical distancing at San Agustin Church in Manila, May 14, 2020. Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - An inter-agency task force is studying a proposal to let Masses resume with churches holding only a fifth of its capacity, an official said Wednesday, as the Philippines prepared to relax its coronavirus lockdown to protect jobs and the economy.

Religious gatherings are limited to a maximum of 5 people in Metro Manila and other high-risk areas, and up to 10 people in areas under the general community quarantine, the second least stringent form of lockdown.

"May mga usapin sa IATF na hindi pa natatapos... Baka raw puwede na sa GCQ ay payagan kahit 20 percent ng seating capacity iyong misa. Wala pa tayong pinal na desisyon d'yan, inaaral pa iyan," said Interior Secretary Eduardo.

(There are issues that the IATF is not yet done discussing. There's a suggestion for the GCQ to allow Masses with only 20 percent of the church filled. We have no final decision on that yet, we are still studying that.)

The task force will decide on this issue in its next meeting. "Definitely sa June 1 wala pa iyan (decision)," he told DZMM.

(Definitely there will be no decision on that yet on June 1.)

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The task force is urging President Rodrigo Duterte to place Metro Manila from June 1 under GCQ, which is a notch lower than its current modified enhanced community quarantine or MECQ.

The MECQ allows certain industries to reopen at half of their capacity, while the GCQ lets almost all industries open at 75-percent capacity.

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the apostolic administrator of Manila, said religious services are "essential" and urged the government to reconsider re-opening churches.

The Philippines is the bastion of Roman Catholicism in Asia, with about 80 percent of its 100 million people subscribing to the faith that Spanish colonizers brought in the 1500s.