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Motorists told: Brace for traffic congestion during All Saints’ break

Ramon Efren Lazaro - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Tollways Management Corp. (TMC), operator of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), has advised motorists to prepare for traffic congestion as vehicular volume is expected to rise by 10 to 15 percent during the observance of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days.

Francisco Dagohoy, TMC communication specialist, said NLEX has a daily average vehicle entry of more than 190,000 while SCTEX has 35,000. He expects vehicular traffic to build up this  afternoon and at about noon of Sunday to Monday morning, when people return from the provinces.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) will deploy 310 First Aid stations in cemeteries and memorial parks and in major highways, bus terminals, airports and seaports.

PRC chairman Richard Gordon said the group will implement the “Oplan Kaluluwa” in at least 277 cemeteries in the country, aside from providing 72 ambulances and 1,810 first aiders. He advised travelers and cemetery-goers to call PRC Hotline 143 for emergencies.

All the courts in the country will also close at noon today to allow everyone the “proper observation of All Souls’ Day” over the weekend, the Supreme Court announced yesterday. Regular court hours will resume by Monday.

The entire National Capital Region Police Office also begins a full-alert status today, said its spokesman Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas, and will watch over 98 cemeteries, 150 bus terminals, seven seaports and two airports.

Commander Armand Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard spokesperson, said that, as of yesterday noon, a total of 52,231 outbound passengers were waiting to board ships in various seaports, as he noted an increase in passenger influx since Wednesday.

He identified the ports of Cebu, which services those going to the Visayas and Mindanao provinces; Sorsogon; Allen and Batangas as among the busiest in the country.

 Alexander Pama, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director, also placed its members on blue alert, the same level raised during Typhoon Lando, to ensure their readiness if there is an emergency.

Brigadier General Carlito Galvez, Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for operations, also revealed that about 6,000 soldiers, including about 600 assigned in Metro Manila, are tasked to secure the holiday weekend.  

“We cannot lower our guard especially on occasions like holidays when the general public is vulnerable,” Galvez said.

Both the NLEX and SCTEX have prepared for the expected surge of motorists this weekend with the deployment of more traffic assistants, manual and portable toll collections, and other programs.

“NLEX will open spare lanes and additional layers of manual toll collection during peak hours at the Mindanao, Dau and Bocaue toll plazas. For SCTEX, advance toll collection will be conducted at Mabalacat on Oct. 30 and 31,” Dagohoy said.

He added that fishbone lanes would be set up in Mabalacat southbound and spare lanes at the Bocaue barrier on Nov. 1 “to accommodate the surge of vehicles going back to Metro Manila.” Portable toll collection system gadgets would also be deployed in strategic locations to facilitate faster transactions.

Beginning Oct. 29, all road works along NLEX and SCTEX would be suspended “unless safety repair is required.” Regular repairs will continue only after Nov. 2.

The “Safe Trip Mo, Sagot Ko” motorist assistance program will also be activated on Oct. 30 and 31 to provide free first aid treatment and basic mechanic services to motorists in selected NLEX spots while the program’s camps, which provides free PLDT and Smart Wi-Fi access, will be available at the Shell-Burol, Total-San Simon and Petron Lakeshore stations only.

Motorists are also advised to check the NLEX-SCTEX website at www.tollways.net.ph or call its hotline number (02) 3-5000.

Re-Christianize All Saints’ Day

Meanwhile, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles calls for “re-Christianizing” Nov. 1 and 2, focusing more on the lives of the saints instead of engaging in scary activities like ‘treat or trick.’

In an interview over the Church-run Radio Veritas, Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also urged the public to give more importance to the saints and to follow their examples.

“These trick or treats and people parading as ghost and scary creatures and wearing masks are often seen during Halloween. The church poses this challenge to them, to parade as saints,” said Vergara, the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Social Communication and Mass Media chairman.

He added that celebrating Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 in a scary way might have been influenced by the fact that it is during these days when many people flock to cemeteries where telling scary stories is among the favorite pastime.

Arguelles also issued a circular on Oct. 12 to appeal to Catholic leaders in his archdiocese to begin “re-Christianizing” Halloween by educating the faithful on the lives of the saints.

“Please introduce in our parishes and our communities the correct commemoration of the saints and the holy souls during our November celebration of the Church’s triumphs and sufferings,” the circular read in part.

The CBCPNews posted that according to Arguelles, Nov. 1 and 2 are traditionally important dates in the Church calendar during which Catholics worldwide take time to pray for the souls of the departed and to commemorate the Communion of Saints.

In the same letter, the archbishop expresses concern that the wholesome observance of Halloween, originally called “All Hallow’s Even,” should have referred to the evening immediately preceding All Saints’ Day.

“Unfortunately, secular, consumerist, and pagan practices have also seeped into what is sacred and spiritual in our religious observances,” Arguelles added, referring to the American-style celebration.

Superintendent Lucio Rosaroso Jr. of the PNP Chaplain Service also reminded Catholics to offer masses in their parishes instead of securing the services of “fake priests” to bless tombs with holy water. – With Ding Cervantes, Edu Punay, Non Alquitran, Evelyn Macairan, Louella Desiderio, Alexis Romero, Cecilia Suerte Felipe

ACIRC ALEXANDER PAMA ALEXIS ROMERO ALL HALLOW ALL SAINTS ALL SOULS ALLEN AND BATANGAS ARGUELLES ARMED FORCES METRO MANILA SAINTS
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