DIFFERENT from the situation in 2020, families who wish to visit their departed loved ones are allowed to do so this year as cemeteries in Masantol town, Pampanga will remain open on November 1 and 2, but compliant with the recommendations set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

This was announced by Mayor Danilo Guintu who told SunStar Pampanga that the decision to open cemeteries here from 6 a.m. is to 5 p.m. on the said dates was left to the local government unit so long as an ordinance or executive order is released containing the required protocols.

On Tuesday, October 19, Guintu issued Executive Order No. 029-2021 to guide residents on their safe visit to the cemeteries.

According to Guintu, no closing of cemeteries, both private and public will happen this year but the number of visitors that will be allowed to enter is limited to 30 percent of its capacity.

"Sa isang pamilya, i-limit na lang po natin sa tatlo o apat ang bibisita o kaya magsalitan nalang para hindi na tayo makadagdag doon sa nandoon na sa loob ng sementeryo," he urged.

He added that individuals who are 60 years old and above, and 18 years old below are still not allowed to visit regardless of their vaccination status.

He also reminded that drinking alcoholic beverages, playing loud music and bringing sharp and deadly devices are prohibited.

Also, Guintu ordered the banning of the bringing of cooked meals inside the cemeteries, even those with private mausoleums, to discourage longer hours of stay.

He added that checkpoints will be installed near cemeteries in the town, as early as this week to monitor and limit the movement of people.

"Naiintindihan po namin na gusto ninyong bumisita sa mga mahal ninyo sa buhay na nasa sementeryo pero huwag po natin kalimutan na may Covid-19 pa kaya doble ingat pa rin tayo," Guintu said.

(We understand that you want to visit your loved ones in the cemetery, but let's not forget that there is still Covid-19 so let's be doubly careful.)

IATF approves recommendation closing cemeteries

Meanwhile, the IATF on Emerging Infectious Diseases on October 20, 2021 approved a recommendation to close cemeteries during the observance of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days in November to prevent gatherings that may serve as coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) superspreader events.

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said based on the resolution passed by the IATF, all cemeteries nationwide should be closed from October 29 to November 2.

He said people may visit their departed loved ones before and after the said period.

Año said the gathering is limited to 10 persons per group and only 30 percent of the venue capacity will be allowed.

He said local government units (LGUs) may increase the allowable visiting capacity to 50 percent depending on their Covid-19 risk assessment in their areas of responsibility.

“Kinakailangan din magpasa ng ordinansa or executive order ang mga LGUs upang ito ay maipatupad nang maayos upang maging ligtas ang ating mga kababayan sa paggunita ng darating na Undas,” said Año.

(LGUs are also required to pass an ordinance or executive order so that it can be implemented properly for the safety of the public during commemoration of the coming Undas.)

Aside from policemen, Año said force multipliers and barangay officials are also required to enforce the existing protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to ensure peace and order inside and outside cemeteries, memorial parks, and columbarium.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Guillermo Eleazar has directed all police units to set up police assistance desks in cemeteries and memorial parks nationwide in anticipation of early visitors ahead of Undas.

He also ordered police officers to coordinate with LGUs on security plans and other related measures.

Eleazar also reminded the public to plan and check the regulations that will be implemented in their respective LGUs concerning visiting cemeteries this year.

“Nagawa na natin ito noong nakaraang taon kaya’t nasisiguro kong magagampanan ulit nang maayos ng ating kapulisan ang kanilang tungkulin sa panahon ng Undas,” he said.

(We did this last year so I am sure that our police will be able to perform their duties properly again during Undas.)

Last year, some LGUs closed down cemeteries and facilities alike on November 1 and 2 in anticipation of the influx of people amid the threat of Covid-19. (With Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)