The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday called on the public to make their observance of the Holy Week safe and peaceful by following a set of guidelines.
For devotees who will do the “penitensya” or acts of penance, the department urged them to get the tetanus vaccine and ensure that any materials that will be used are thoroughly cleaned.
People should assess themselves first before trying any type of fasting, the DOH added.
Those who will do the traditional Visita Iglesia (church visits) were also reminded to bring their own water, umbrellas, and fans, and use sunblock, if possible, to avoid sunburn amid the warm season.
Pregnant women, the elderly, and those who are sick were also advised by the Health Department to remain at home and make sure the people they interact with are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Those who will stay at home throughout the Holy Week are encouraged to eat healthy food, exercise, and use the long weekend to rest and meditate.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) placed its personnel on heightened alert at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and in other international ports nationwide in anticipation of a large influx of passengers from abroad during the Lenten break.
“We are bracing for a surge in the volume of passengers who are expected to travel in and out of the country during the Holy Week, thus we have to alert our border control officers for any eventuality that may arise during this period,” Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said in a statement.
Tansingco said the BI has also fielded more than 100 additional immigration officers to the NAIA to augment the manpower at immigration booths in the arrival and departure areas of the premier port.
“This will ensure that our services to the traveling public are not interrupted or compromised even if there is a sharp increase in passenger volume. That is why we have banned our port personnel from going on leave during the Lenten break,” he added.
The BI chief instructed the bureau’s terminal heads to implement stricter measures in screening passengers and deter any attempts by human trafficking syndicates to take advantage of the occasion and spirit their victims out of the country.
Immigration port personnel were also ordered to be vigilant in screening arriving foreigners to make sure no unwanted or illegal aliens could slip into the country.
The Philippine Coast Guard on Holy Monday recorded more than 100,000 passengers traveling around the country as the week-long celebration of the Lenten season began.
As of noon Monday, PCG listed 52,334 outbound passengers and 47,680 inbound passengers in all seaports in the country.
The Coast Guard placed its districts, stations, and substations on a heightened alert from April 2 to 10 to manage the influx of travelers during the Holy Week.
The heightened alert will also cover the length of summer vacation in anticipation of local tourists traveling by sea for recreational purposes until May 31.
About 2,644 frontline personnel of the Coast Guard were deployed in 15 PCG districts and inspected 648 vessels and 449 motorbancas.
With the expected influx of travelers this Holy Week, a legislator from Northern Luzon said students who are forced to pay the full transport fare when buying their tickets online should be refunded at terminals.
“The students deserve a refund. They are forced to pay the full transport fare when purchasing their tickets online. Otherwise, this would be an uneven application of the law which excludes those who by choice or circumstance purchase their tickets online,” Isabela Rep. Inno Dy said.
Under Republic Act 11314 or the Student Fare Discount Act, which was signed into law in 2019, students are entitled to a 20-percent discount on domestic regular fares for all public transportation.
Dy lamented, however, that some transport companies have not been extending the discount to students who avail of online tickets.
“In fact, some companies even explicitly state that tickets that have been bought online are not eligible for a discount,” the solon said.
The lawmaker said that nowhere is it stated in RA 11314, that tickets purchased online are exempt from the mandated 20 percent discount.
Dy earlier filed House Bill 1142, which seeks to amend Section 5 of RA No. 11314, to explicitly state that tickets purchased online shall also be entitled to the discount.
In another development, the Taguig City government on Monday announced the opening of The Life of Christ Park at the TLC Village Lakeshore in Barangay Lower Bicutan, where residents can take their time to reflect and meditate this Holy Week.
Mayor Laarni Cayetano said the six-hectare area located at the TLC Village Lakeshore along the Laguna Lake Highway will be embellished with Stations of the Cross, photo exhibits, art installations, and prayer boxes.
“The City of Taguig officially launches The Life of Christ (Park) as we all reflect and embrace our faith and remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus,” said Cayetano.
The city chief executive said the Life of Christ will be opened to the public on Holy Tuesday until Easter Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Tansingco revealed that BI’s electronic gates are fully operational at the airport, which allows digital processing of arrivals for as fast as eight seconds per passenger.
The BI foresees a far bigger number of travelers who will enter and exit the country during this year’s Lenten break amid the country’s reopening of its borders after the lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Statistics show that passenger arrivals at airports now average
between 30,000 to 32,000 daily, compared to only 5,000 to 6,000 a year ago. They said that they project that the number will rise to around 40,000 from Maundy Thursday onwards.
The BI also fielded 36 new immigration officers that concluded their training recently at the Philippine Immigration Academy in Clark, Pampanga.
PCG Commandant Admiral Artemio Abu also joined Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary for Maritime Julius Yano to inspect Manila North Harbor Port in Tondo, Manila earlier.
DOTr ordered port managers to always ensure the security and safety of all port passengers and to keep maritime operations safe and secure.
PCG encouraged passengers to contact them through their official Facebook page, or the Coast Guard Public Affairs (0927-560-7729) for inquiries, concerns, and clarifications regarding sea travel protocols and regulations during the Lenten season.