DILG chief appeals to public: Bear with security, safety preps for Pope's visit

January 13, 2015 4:40 am 

By Lloyd T. Caliwan

MANILA, Jan. 11 (PNA) — Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II on Monday appealed to the public for cooperation and understanding as the government beefs up its security and safety preparations for the visit of Pope Francis this week.

Roxas, in a briefing with media organizations, asked for help in explaining to the people that the security plan mapped out by the national government is neither exaggerated nor is it intended to inconvenience the public.

“These are not inconveniences or if they really are, it is really for the greater good of the Pope and the public at large,” Roxas said.

Roxas is referring to the safety and security measures that are being carried out by the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces and other agencies of government, which include closure of streets and severe traffic jams from January 15-19; strict procedures for the entry and exit of the faithful at the Luneta Grandstand in Manila; disruption of LRT services, as well as the building inspection in light of the stampede incident in Shanghai, China and Paris attacks last week.

“It’s the Pope’s security, our own security and our country’s face and honor,” he stressed.

The recent celebration of the feast of Black Nazarene in Quiapo was deemed as a dry run for the Papal visit, as roughly five million devotees flocked to Luneta in Manila to attend the mass for the "Itim na Nazareno".

“We enjoin all sectors to help us, the government reached out to our Kababayans that we are all hosts here and not just to exercise restraint,” Roxas added.

Present during the briefing were DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya, DILG Undersecretary Peter Corvera, acting PNP Chief Gen. Leonardo Espina, PNP Gen. Ricardo Marquez, National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) Director Gen. Carmelo Valmoria, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang and Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista.

Roxas together with other Cabinet Secretaries conducted an ocular inspection of the Luneta Grandstand to ensure that all security areas and angles are studied and considered before Pope Francis arrives on Thursday.

To avoid overcrowding, authorities divided Rizal Park into quadrants, which will have physical barriers to contain people.

Each quadrant can only accommodate a certain number of people, after which people will no longer be allowed.

“There will be open aisles, not only to provide space for medical emergencies, but to absorb the influx of people in case of a stampede,” Roxas said.

Authorities said around 700,000 people can be accommodated in the main quadrant in front of the Quirino Grandstand, although there will be places set up around the Rizal Park where the public can watch the event from several video walls.

The venue will be closed on Saturday night and will only open to the public on Sunday at 6 a.m., hours before the Mass at 3:30 p.m.

The LRT stations near Rizal Park will be closed, meaning passengers will have to board and disembark at other nearby stations.

The entrances to the venue will be found on the Orosa side, where 20 scanners and metal detectors will be set up to inspect the belongings of the public.

“You can leave your spot, but at the risk of having your place overtaken by somebody. It’s a first-come, first-serve basis,” Roxas said.

The public will not be allowed to conduct overnight vigils in the area as the PNP will conduct a security sweep of the premises the night before.

Although conceding that only a fraction of the estimated crowds can only be in the immediate vicinity of the Quirino Grandstand, Roxas said there will be 25 video walls set up in the area.

“Pope Francis will also make the rounds of the venue just like what he does at the Vatican, he will not be just staying at the grandstand,” he said.

Espina for his part, said the PNP together with the other law enforcement agency are "ready in maintaining the peace and order during the Papal visit particularly in ensuring the safety of the highest leader of the Catholic church."

Espina reminded the public that firearms, alcoholic beverages etc will not be allowed into the Rizal Park as it will be considered “a place of worship.”

Each quadrant at the Quirino Grandstand will have PNP personnel securing it to maintain peace and order.

“We will be very strict… We hope the public will not misinterpret these preparations as an inconvenience, we do this because we care for the public. We will try our best as humanly possible,” Espina said.

“One of the most potent forces in securing the public is the public themselves,” the PNP officer-in-charge added.

PNP spokesperson Wilben M. Mayor said the cops who will be part of the Pope’s security detail have been told to refrain from taking "selfies" or self-taken photos of themselves unless otherwise asked by the Catholic leader.

Mayor said that the police officers who will be deployed during the Papal visit should focus instead on securing the Pope and the millions of people expected to attend the event.

"They are discouraged to do that, their job is to secure the Pope. That should be their mindset," PNP spokesperson Wilben M. Mayor told reporters during a press briefing.

Meanwhile, Department of Transportation and Communications chief Joseph Emilio Abaya said there will be an adjustment in the schedule of operations in the Manila Light Rail Transit system Line 1 (LRT 1) which travels from Roosevelt in Balintawak to Baclaran in Pasay City as the Quirino station will be closed on January 15 at 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., at the whole day of January 16 and 18, 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on January 17 and 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. on January 19.

Abaya also said no-fly and no-sail zones will be implemented at certain hours while the Pope is in the country.

He said the Philippine Coast Guard will not allow bancas and leisure yachts to come near the site of the Papal visit, 200 meters from a certain distance to the coast.

Ports will be allowed to operate, he added, but all ships coming in will be screened‎.

The no-fly zone will be imposed within three nautical mile radius and 18,000 feet of altitude.

The official also reminded news outlets that no camera drones will be allowed to fly ‎during the Pope's engagements.

"Aside from being arrested, those who will be flying drones will be fined by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines with P300,000 to P500,000. So that's definitely much more than the drone you'll invest," Abaya said.

During the Pope's arrival, flight to Tacloban, and his departure, there will be changes in flight schedules at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport since airports will be closed to arriving aircraft for selected hours.

"There will be arrivals that will be allowed but all departures will be allowed," he said. (PNA)

LAP/CLTC

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