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Mayors ok hiked church capacity for Simbang Gabi

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PNA file photo of Simbang Gabi at Baclaran Church

JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday disclosed that Metro Manila mayors have agreed to increase church capacity to 30 percent for religious activities especially for Simbang Gabi or pre-dawn masses.

“The increase in church capacity from 10% to 30% under GCQ (general community quarantine) was reportedly agreed upon by the Metro Manila mayors in their meeting yesterday (Sunday),” said Guevarra, a member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious.

Based on the current IATF-EID guidelines prevailing in areas under GCQ, only 10 percent of the capacity of a church or place of worship are allowed to get in.

Meanwhile, Guevarra declined to comment on appeals to ease the curfew in GCQ areas, from 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. to allow more churchgoers to attend pre-dawn masses.

The matter may be taken up at the next meeting of the IATF on Thursday. But in all likelihood, the lifting or shortening of curfews will be left to the discretion of the respective LGUs, except Metro Manila where LGU officials normally act in unison,” he said.

Last week, a Quiapo Church official appealed anew to the IATF-EID to allow more people inside churches.

“Inside the church, health protocols are being observed. Only a few people are inside that is why we are appealing to the IATF to increase the capacity to reduce the number of people outside,” said Fr. Douglas Badong, parochial vicar.

Metro Manila is currently under GCQ until October 31.

Two weeks ago, the IATF-EID turned down appeals to allow an increase in the number of churchgoers in areas under GCQ.

This was after devotees of the iconic Black Nazarene in Manila’s Quiapo district were photographed ‘violating’ social distancing rules. The incident went viral on social media.

For now, the IATF sticks to the existing rules on mass gatherings, including public religious worship in GCQ areas, until the latter get reclassified to MGCQ (modified general community quarantine),” Guevarra said on October 4.

Badong advised devotees of the Black Nazarene to prepare for a different way of celebrating the feast next year as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

Various activities that are part of religious festivities in the country have since been canceled to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.