Cebu News

Tighter security as delegates arrive: ‘98% IEC ready’

The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - The Cebu Archdiocese is now “98 percent ready” in its hosting of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress, which starts this Sunday.

With the event being just two days away, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma asked all Cebuanos to join the church during the IEC opening day at Plaza Independencia for a Mass with Charles Maung Cardinal Bo of Myanmar, the representative of Pope Francis in this year’s IEC gathering.

Around 12,000 delegates have already registered for the congress, including one papal legate, three papal nuncios, 20 cardinals, 30 archbishops and 100 bishops who are expected to arrive today and tomorrow. The congress is expected to gather at least 15,000 foreign and local delegates.

As to the preparations, Archdiocese spokesperson Monsignor Joseph Tan said the remaining two percent is just the finishing of final touches in the construction of the IEC Village, particularly the renovation of the compound at the Pope Paul, John Paul II, and San Carlos seminaries where the IEC Pavilion stands in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City.

He said murals that decorate the perimeter fence of the compound were also being added yesterday aside from the landscaping of some portions of the seminaries, which was ongoing.

Installation of equipment at the Media Center inside the Pavilion is also among those being rushed, including high speed Internet and platform areas for television networks. Power generators were also being installed as of 3 p.m. yesterday.

Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo said security measures have also been tightened following the terrorist attacks in Indonesia recently. He, however, said that there are no changes in the preparations for the activities of the IEC, except for tighter security measures during outdoor gatherings.

The Police Regional Office-7 has activated the Regional Joint Tactical Operations Center for the purpose.

Superintendent Rey Tiempo, Site-Task Group Cebu head, said they would be implementing the same strategies they adopted during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings held in Cebu last year.

He said that like the APEC delegates, they would be treating the IEC delegates the VIP treatment.

He explained that the center will have members from different law enforcement agencies in one room so that their units could easily be tapped if problems arise during the IEC.

“Operation center ni siya. All activities in the ground must be informed of the situation. All concerned units must be present because delegates should be secured,” said Tiempo.

Not less than 5,000 police personnel will be deployed during the IEC. They include those who would be stationed at the IEC Pavilion. An augmentation force from the Armed Forces of the Philippines would also be there.

As to the traffic situation, Department of Interior and Local Government-7 Director Rene Burdeos appealed for more patience and cooperation from the public who might be affected by traffic rerouting and closure of major roads during the IEC.

He said people have to understand that the traffic schemes that would be implemented are needed to ensure the smooth flow of IEC activities, especially the facilitation and transportation of foreign and local delegates attending the event.

He also said a request has been sent for the Philippine Coast Guard to issue an advisory for all shipping companies to inform passengers on the implementation of traffic rerouting to lessen the inconvenience. He said shipping firms should set up a public address system to announce changes in traffic schemes to guide them.

He also provided safety tips, like reporting to authorities unattended or suspicious boxes/packages and not touching them; not wearing expensive jewelry and being mindful of the presence of pickpockets in crowded places; and bringing of water to avoid dehydration due to the intense heat.

Meanwhile, the Cebu City Traffic Operations yesterday reminded all motorists and commuters to avoid streets at the vicinity of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral at 10 a.m. today to avoid being trapped by slow-moving traffic flow in the area.

CCTO Executive Director Rey Gealon said they have granted the request for parking to be allowed on the P. Gomez Street, Mabini Extension, and Legaspi Street and its adjacent roads near the cathedral.

The request was made by Monsignor Renato Beltran, Jr., a member of the Team of Pastors of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.

“The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines will hold the Opening Mass of (its) annual plenary assembly at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral on January 22, Friday at 10 a.m. In attendance at said Mass are all the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines. This is the first time in the history of the CBCP that their plenary assembly is held outside Manila,” Beltran said in his January 20 letter.

Beltran said the cathedral expects a large volume of private vehicles during the Eucharistic celebration, and asked that CCTO exempts CBCP vehicles parked near the cathedral from being clamped.

CCTO has been strictly implementing the city’s Traffic Code by clamping vehicles illegally parked along streets and sidewalks.

Gealon said coasters and buses of those who will attend the CBCP Mass will be parked along P. Gomez Street, Mabini Extension and Legaspi Street.

He, however, encouraged the cathedral administrators not to allow double parking in the said streets to avoid further inconvenience to the public.

He said there will be no road closures or re-routing for the activity, but advised motorists to take Leon Kilat Street or Junquera Street in going towards their downtown destination.

Also, Department of Social Welfare and Development-7 Director Ma. Evelyn Macapobre said at least 60 social workers will likewise be deployed in Cebu during the IEC.  

She said the 60 will help in camp management as well as respond to any emergency situations.

“We have committed 60 (DSWD-7 staff, mostly composed of social workers, to helped manage the (IEC) help desk, where lost and found children will be stationed,” Macapobre said.

Her personnel will augment personnel those from the Cebu City Department of Social Welfare and Services office assigned in  various staging areas for the entire duration of the IEC.  — /RHM (FREEMAN)

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