Christmas carolers unlikely this year

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    DECEMBER nights this year will be long and not as cheerful as the years before as the proposal to ban the chirpy caroling tradition during the Christmas season gained ground amid the continued threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

    Yesterday, Joint Task Force COVID Shield commander and PNP deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said allowing carolers to roam the streets for the holiday custom would be too risky.

    While he recognized the heart-warming sight of kids, teenagers and adults singing house to house to raise holiday funds, Eleazar said sacrifices have to be made in the name of health.

    “This is what makes the Christmas of every Filipino memorable and exciting one. But the situation (now) is currently different. We are facing a serious threat of coronavirus disease and we in the JTF COVID Shield believe that it is in the health interest of everybody if we could just stay home and enjoy the Yuletide season with our family,” said Eleazar.

    Eleazar’s position echoed the statement of Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba last week when he urged authorities to ban caroling this Christmas season to prevent the further spread of the virus.

    On Friday, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said he will recommend to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to impose a nationwide ban on caroling this year as he stressed that “we are still in extra ordinary times.” Año is a key member of the task force.

    “Based on studies and statistics, the spread of COVID is more likely to occur in mass singing like choir and caroling because singers will remove their masks as they sing and virus are released through aerosols,” said Año.

    Meanwhile, Jaime Morente, commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), yesterday reminded immigration personnel to be on the lookout for possible human trafficking activities especially in the country’s international airports following the decision of the IATF to ease travel restrictions for departing Filipinos.

    Morente said human traffickers could again be recruiting victims now that the government has allowed outbound non-essential travels.

    “Our officers at the airports have been ordered to thwart any attempt by these trafficking syndicates to send their victims abroad in the guise of being tourists. We will not allow them to board their flights and they will be sent home,” Morente said.

    Morente said he has ordered immigration personnel to refer for secondary inspections those who can be considered as suspicious passengers.

    “We are warning our kababayans not to fall prey to the schemes of these syndicates as they will only put you in harm’s way and expose you to possible abuse,” he said, adding that prospective OFWs should refrain from using fake travel documents as these could be verified by the bureau.

    Aside from passport and work visa, the BI requires departing OFWs to present their overseas employment certificate from the POEA.

    BI Port Operations Division chief Candy Tan said that even before the restrictions were eased, personnel at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have already intercepted scores of passengers who claimed to be OFWs but were caught with bogus travel papers, including fake visas and overseas employment certificates and tampered passports. – With Ashzel Hachero