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Church told to present plans to LGUs to allow religious gatherings in GCQ areas

/ 01:50 PM May 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Church officials should coordinate with local government units (LGUs) with regards their plans on how they intend to implement physical distancing during religious gatherings upon transition to the general community quarantine (GCQ).

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said this Monday in response to Manila Archdiocese Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo’s appeal to allow religious gatherings in areas under GCQ.

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According to Pabillo, health protocols are already in place once the government allows the resumption of Holy Masses, which he said are needed for the psychological and spiritual resilience of the Catholic faithful amid the coronavirus crisis.

Malacañang initially announced that religious meetings and essential work gatherings will be allowed in areas under GCQ as long as strict physical distancing and the mandatory wearing of face masks or other facial protective equipment is maintained to prevent the spread of the viral illness.

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However, the government later backtracked and recalled the order as some local officials supposedly expressed concern over the resumption of these mass gathering activities.

According to Roque, it is the local officials, not the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), whom the church officials should convince that it is safe to conduct religious gatherings despite the lingering threat of the coronavirus disease.

“Binawi na nga ng IATF ‘yung rekomendasyon na i-allow na ang religious meetings sa GCQ areas. So they need not be convinced,” Roque said in a televised press briefing in Malacañang.

“Ang tumutol po talaga ang mga local officials dahil ang sabi po nila there’s no way we can implement social distancing sa ating mga simbahan at other places of worship dahil hindi naman sila pupwedeng pumasok dun habang sumasamba,” he added.

Duterte first placed Metro Manila under community quarantine on March 15, but an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was later imposed covering the entire Luzon region until April 12.

The Luzon ECQ was then extended until April 30.

Metro Manila and several “high-risk” provinces were ordered to remain under strict movement restrictions until May 15 while “low risk” areas were placed under GCQ where some movement restrictions are eased.

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