Cebu News

Looming bad weather won’t stop papal visit

Miriam Garcia Desacada, Jessa Agua, Lalaine Jimenea - The Freeman

PALO, LEYTE, Philippines — Stormy weather kept its threat on Pope Francis’ visit to the country with the low-pressure area over the Pacific Ocean expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility and become a tropical depression on Thursday.

State weather agency PAGASA is sending a mobile radar system to Tacloban City to better gauge weather conditions during the pope’s visit there on Saturday.

“There is a tendency that the tropical cyclone will pass by Eastern Visayas area in time for the Papal visit. As early as Friday, they will experience rains. In Cebu, light rains and strong winds will be felt this Friday,” said PAGASA Visayas Director Oscar Tabada yesterday.

If the LPA will become a cyclone, it will be named Amang.

“We have weather specialists in Tacloban and Guian. They are still under my command in PAGASA Visayas. There is also augmentation from Manila to help monitor weather there especially for this weekend,” said PAGASA Visayas Director Oscar Tabada yesterday.

Despite the threat of rain on Sunday, Palo Archbishop John Du said the Vatican has confirmed moderate rain will not stop Pope Francis from visiting Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte.

The pope will celebrate a Mass there, share a lunch with 30 typhoon and earthquake survivors, meet local church officials, bless a Cathedral, visit the Pope Francis Center, and visit a mass grave.

“The Pope visit is a sacrifice and he is coming to meet those who suffered the series of calamities that has hit the region. Any rain will not stop the pope to visit us. Let us unite in prayer that God will bless us a good weather during this occasion,” Du said.

Instead of worrying about the weather, Du called on the faithful to prepare spiritually “so that on the 17th, we are all ready to receive the Holy Communion during the open Mass at the airport.”

“Never miss to avail yourself of such spiritual merit. This is a rare opportunity for a pope to celebrate Mass in Leyte. Do your confession now so that we can receive our indulgence at the plenary Mass,” he added.

Father Chris Militante, archdiocese information officer, said: “Worst case scenario is the motorcade and other stops will be cancelled. The pope will say Mass, then fly away.”


Plan B

Authorities are not taking chances and are eyeing the possibility that Pope Francis’ flight might be diverted to Cebu in the event weather conditions will worsen in Eastern Visayas.

Yesterday, Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya inspected the Mactan Cebu International Airport together with officials of the Department of National Defense and Central Command to check that security measures are in place.

Abaya said the MCIA is an alternative airport for a possible “stop over.”

“Yeah, it is an alternative airport. Ipagdasal natin na hindi sasama ang panahon,” Abaya said.

“Cebu is a major hub so we’re checking in the airport and the seaports to eliminate all possible threats, any disruptions both to Sinulog and Tacloban, and of course the activities of the Pope,” he said.

“We are having no-fly zone…(we’re) issuing notice to mariners and airmen, to limit especially small aircraft and flying schools,” Abaya added.

Estee Marie Plunkett, head of Corporate Affairs of GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation, explained earlier that inbound and outbound flights in Cebu will experience interruptions such as cancellations and delays as the “no-fly zone” will be implemented on January 15.

The CAAP’s “No Fly zone” was issued last December and should be implemented as well as “no air-traffic” would be accommodated at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. as Pope Francis arrives at 5:45 p.m. on January 15.

The Daniel R. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City will also be closed to all air traffic from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. when the Pope arrives in the morning of January 17.

Andrew Acquaah-Harrison, Chief Executive Advisor of GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation, said the airport is ready for the possibility of a stopover.

“We’ve not been advised for the Pope’s going to stopover in Cebu, however, should the Pope decide to do so, and will be blessed by almighty God, we will be ready for the Pope’s visit.”

Local church officials are looking at the South Road Properties, particularly the area where the San Pedro Calungsod canonization templete stands, as a possible location of a mass.

“Two days, three days before the visit that they tell us, we will be ready. Ready because we are happy about it,” said Cebu Archdiocese spokesperson Monsignor Joseph Tan.

Cebuanos have since lobbied for the Pope to include Cebu, the cradle of Christianity in Asia, in his itinerary.

Church leaders in Tacloban have called on the faithful to pray the Oratio Imperata, the prayer for deliverance from calamities.

At least two million raincoats, recently donated by an unidentified donor to the Palo Archdiocese, and 600,000 bottles of water will be distributed to pilgrims who will attend the Mass.



Du said the archdiocese in Tacloban has been coordinating with telecommunications firms and the intelligence community to ensure communications lines are open during the event.

Police in Eastern Visayas have assured security measures are in place to ensure the Pope’s safety.

In Cebu, Police Regional Office Director, Chief Supt. Prudencio Tom Bañas also assured that his men are ready in the event Pope Francis will decide to visit here. He believes, however, that this scenario is unlikely, considering that state leaders follow strict protocol. The Pope is considered a head of state because the Vatican is considered a city-state. 

He said there will be no shortage of policemen here despite 400 of his men now in Tacloban as members of the augmentation force.


Cebu delegation

The Cebu Archdiocese delegation to the Mass at the Manila Cathedral, which Pope Francis will celebrate, will be led by Archdiocesan Vicar General Msgr. Danny Sanico.

Ten priests, including Sanico, will represent Cebu in Manila. The others are Fr. Vicente Florido, Jr., Fr. Gerardo Dela Victoria, Fr. Mario Ceferino Eleccion, Msgr. Renato Beltran, Fr. Reynaldo Cui, Fr. Ariel Dutosme, Fr. Ruel Marigomen, Fr. Samuel Patriarca, and Fr. Martin Ilozue Okafor.

The priests, Sanico said, were chosen from different age groups of clergy. Father Florido is the oldest while Fr. Marigomen is the youngest.

Aside from the priests, five religious nuns have also been chosen to represent Cebu, including Sr. Maria Virginia Ligaray, Sr. Maria Estrelita Lauros, Sr. Marife Leslie Luna, Sr. Maria Chona Bracero. —  with Christell M. Tudtud/JMO (FREEMAN)









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