The Philippine National Police as well as branches of the Armed Forces would not be holding Christmas parties during the Yuletide while the country reels from infections and deaths caused by the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Both the PNP and the AFP said, in separate statements, funds for the celebration would be given out to help coronavirus patients.
Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, in a statement, said AFP chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay had directed all unit commanders and chiefs of offices across the country about the prohibition of holding parties.
“Defer Christmas parties and similar celebrations as an austerity measure and as a gesture of sensitivity to our countrymen," Gapay said in his order.
"Fellow Filipinos here and abroad have been suffering. And this is the least we can do to commiserate with the people we have sworn to secure and serve especially in this time of crisis," he added.
Police offices and units are also not allowed to hold Christmas parties.
PNP chief Gen. Camilo Cascolan himself told reporters: "I am actually contemplating for (sic) no Christmas party in the Philippine National Police.
“They will understand that, instead of using the funds for our Christmas party, we will be giving it out for COVID patients or the COVID fund."
Cascolan was interviewed at the sidelines of the opening of the Civil Security Group’s satellite office in Manila Police District Wednesday. Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said holding of Christmas parties in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), like Metro Manila, would not be allowed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Under GCQ, parties are not allowed. NCR mayors have agreed that the region would remain under GCQ. If we shift to MGCQ, all activities would be at 50-percent capacity, even get-togethers (sic) would surely be done under that status,” he said in a radio interview.
Año also clarified that individuals aged 15 to 65 years old will be allowed outside their residence in areas under the MGCQ.
He pointed this out to avoid confusion as the Metro Manila mayors decided to impose the restrictions outside their homes for those within the 18 to 65 years old range.
He added that what was approved by the President is the “gradual expansion from 15 to 65 years old to be allowed to go out.’’
If the situation improves, Año said it would be up to the local government units to decide whether to allow individuals in that age range to go out.
During the holiday season, Cascolan said the deployment of police personnel on the ground would be augmented, especially in places of convergence for the strict implementation of quarantine guidelines, particularly the ban on Christmas parties.
He said this would prevent any kind of mass gatherings, especially in areas under GCQ, as well as crime incidents and terrorism.
“We have to rationalize the deployment of our forces. When we say proper deployment of our forces and resources, those in places that police are needed, and not just deploying them haphazardly." Cascolan said.
Meanwhile, while Metro Manila mayors agreed to ban Christmas parties in the National Capital Region, Sen. Imee Marcos exhorted everyone to be creative about having it.
“Let’s get creative- Pilipino pa!” said Marcos, adding there were currently virtual parties online.
“Now if there is wifi, everybody can eat Noche Buena at the same time. They can see each other on computer,” said Marcos.
She just expressed hope the shopping hours would be prolonged and the increase in prices of pork. spaghetti and others should be stopped.
“I just hope this would not be a dry Christmas,” Marcos added.
She also wants the government to be lenient in allowing those living in one house to engage in merry-making, to sing in a videoke, to light legitimate firecrackers, and allow the children to play in secured roads.
She said curfew should be eased even for a few nights so that good traditions like Simbang Gabi could be continued.
It would be much better if there was a place outside a church where masses could be held so more people could join.
And instead of luxurious parties and gifts, she appealed to those who could afford to share what they have with the poor.
“Let us share and give... that’s the real essence of pandemic,” Marcos said.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that despite the threat of the African swine fever, the Department of Agriculture gave the public the assurance there would be no shortage of pork during the Christmas season.
“We have many in our inventory if we compare it to our last year’s inventory of the same period. We have more pork, which is 55 percent more,” Dar said.
But he raised alarm there were forces behind to control the open supply of frozen meat pork and its products.
He urged cold storage owners to release the frozen pork supplies on a regular basis.
“We are looking into the manipulation in the release of frozen pork because (we have observed that) there have been aplenty just at the cold storages,” he said.
“We will do what is necessary to be able to release them regularly from those warehouses,” he added.
ASF has so far hit 25 provinces and resulted in the depopulation of 350,000 pigs, according to the DAR chief.
“It continues to be a threat to the Philippine swine industry, and let me further mention na there are just a few countries in the world which have successfully eradicated ASF. But it took them 30 years (to do so), just like Spain,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier created a task force to stop the entry and control the spread of ASF amid its outbreak in certain areas in the country.
Dar said there was also enough supply of pork hams for the Christmas holiday.
He said the agriculture department was doing its best to restart the hog industry in ASF-affected areas.
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