Cebu News

Rama still hoping Pope will visit

Jessa J. Agua, Grace Melanie I. Lacamiento - The Philippine Star

CEBU, Philippines - Roughly a week before Pope Francis sets foot in the Philippines, local leaders have joined Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama’s optimism that the pontiff will change his mind and visit Cebu.

“I am hoping against hope that the Pope will decide to visit Cebu,” said Fr. Jonas Mejares, rector of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu.

The city’s chief of police, too, shares his sentiment.

“I hope and pray that the Pope comes to Cebu. If he comes to Cebu, I know that Cebuanos will take care of him. He just needs to come, we will do the rest,” said Cebu City Police Office OIC chief, Police Supt. Conrad Capa.

Capa assured that along with church and city officials, the Philippine National Police is also preparing a contingency plan in the event Pope Francis decides to swing by.

Leaders here have rallied for the Vatican to include Cebu in the Pope’s itinerary, considering that it is the seat of Christianity in Asia and is celebrating the 450th dawn of Philippine Christianity, as well as the feast of the Holy Child.

Mejares said Rama has informed him that the city government is ready for this possibility.

“I asked the mayor, ‘is the city of Cebu ready for the Pope?’ Then the mayor replied, ‘100 percent ready!” Mejares said.

He also clarified that the Archdiocese has not received any formal request from organizers of the Papal visit to borrow an image of the Santo Niño in Cebu.

“I heard from a fellow Augustinian priest in Manila that our colleagues in Intramuros received request to borrow an image of the Sto. Nino. Siguro they thought that because we are all Augustinian, we are one office. But we have a provincialate here in Cebu. Until now, we are still waiting for the formal request from them,” Mejares said.

Should the request arrived, the church can only lend the replica of the image, Mejares said.

“The original image of the Sto. Niño cannot be taken outside the Basilica. We have a number of replicas to be used in pilgrimage. Perhaps, we can let them borrow the one in my office. It is the closest replica to the original image,” he said.


Fewer men

Meanwhile, instead of 1,500 requested by the national headquarters, the Police Regional Office – 7 will send only 400 policemen to Tacloban City as augmentation force during Pope Francis’ visit.

 Senior Supt. Erson Digal, PRO-7 regional operations and plans division chief, said the regional office can only send 400 because the visit coincides with the annual Sinulog festivities here, which also needs to be secured. Thousands flock to Cebu during the Sinulog.

The 400 policemen assigned for the papal visit will come from Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB)-7 and will be led by RPSB 7 battalion commander Supt. Clifford Gairanod.

“Atong focus duha – sa Region 8 for the security ni Pope and sa Sinulog sa Cebu kay mas daghan-daghan man pud ang tawo diri,” Digal said.

Digal said that that the 400 policemen will be wearing the general office attire instead of the camo green uniform. The regional police office is coordinating with the Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the possible use of a C130 plane to transport the 400 cops from Cebu City.

He said they also directed the Regional Logistics and Research Development Division to transport them via ship.

The troop will assemble at the regional headquarters today for final accounting before they will leave Cebu on January 10. They are expected to return by January 20.

Meanwhile, Senior Supt. Edward Carranza, chief of staff of the Police Regional Office-7 Regional Directorial Staff, said police force in the ports will be augmented in anticipation of the influx of passengers from Cebu to Leyte for the Pope’s visit.

Chief Supt. Prudencio Tom Bañas has directed maritime groups to secure all seaports along with the Philippine Coast Guard.

The entire police force in Central Visayas will be on full alert despite no threat at this point in time.

Pope Francis will visit Tacloban City, Palo in Leyte and Manila from January 15 to 19. -/JMO (FREEMAN)










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