By Aaron Recuenco
Policemen will be conducting random security checks on devotees and visitors expected to flock to Quiapo and the areas of the procession route of the “Señor Nazareno” or Black Nazarene on Tuesday, January 9.
Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said some 5,600 policemen will be deployed and the number will be reinforced by commandos from the Special Action Force and around 200 soldiers.
“We will be conducting random checks on bags and backpacks of both devotees and other people in the area to ensure that they are not carrying weapons or dangerous items,” said Albayalde.
He said they want to cover every aspect of the security measures, starting with the skeletal deployment of troops in the past days. He said the full deployment started yesterday for the first Friday mass.
Snipers and members of the Explosives and Ordnance Division (EOD) will be deployed on Sunday to maximize the security measures.
They will be backed by drones that are expected to be flown by police and military personnel during the procession in the Manila area.
In addition, intelligence operatives in civilian clothes will also be deployed among the crowd.
“We are not discounting the possibility that there were will be attempts to sabotage the Traslacion. That is why we will not be relaxing,” said Albayalde.
Church and police officials said millions of people are expected to flock to Manila as early as Monday for the religious activity which will culminate on Tuesday with the procession from Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo church which usually lasts for hours.
Other security measures are a 48-hour gun ban and a proposed liquor ban in Manila.
Albayalde said it is not yet clear at this point if signal jammers would be used as in the past.
“We are 100 percent prepared. We cannot say that it would be fool-proof zero incident but we are very confident,” said Albayalde.
While he disclosed that there is no serious terror threat, Albayalde warned the people who will join the religious activities in Quiapo to be alert of the real threat from street criminals.
“We all know that not all of those who will take part in the Traslacion are devotees. There will be pickpockets and snatchers who will likely insert themselves.
He urged the devotees not to wear jewelry and refrain from bringing a lot of cash and expensive gadgets so as not to attract street criminals.
He also advised devotees not join the procession while drunk as their condition can cause fistfights and other troubles.
He said there will be 23 medical stations and 65 ambulances that would be on standby for medical emergencies.
In anticipation of the tons of garbage that will be left by devotees, the Quiapo Church has formed a Green Brigade team that will help address the perennial problem.
Father Ric Valencia, head minister of the Archdiocese of Manila’s Ecology Ministry said, the Church has intensified its Green Formation campaign “to help the faithful, particularly, Black Nazarene devotees to maintain the cleanliness of the procession route every year.”
The priest said the Green Brigade will be divided into two groups this year – one to clean the procession route, and the other, to clean up after the procession.
341 tons of trash
Last year, the garbage generated by the procession filled up 65 trucks which is equivalent to about 341.29 tons of trash. In 2016, some 172.29 tons of garbage were collected after the procession.
“The Quiapo Church has long organized the Green Brigade to help manage the garbage problem before and after the Black Nazarene procession such as last Dec. 31 during the thanksgiving procession in Quiapo,” Valencia said over Church-run Radio Veritas.
Valencia also called on volunteers who might want to help clean up the streets after the Traslacion. Cleaning up and picking up garbage, he said, is very humbling and a most sincere gesture of devotion and respect for the environment that God created for us.
Red Cross volunteers
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) will be deploying around 2,000 personnel and volunteers in Quiapo on Tuesday, January 9.
“Like those who have dedicated their lives to their devotion to the Black Nazarene, it has been like a devotion for us as well at the Red Cross to ensure the health, safety and well-being of the devotees during the height of the Traslacion,” PRC Chairman Richard Gordon said.
PRC will be deploying 44 ambulances, and we will set up nine first aid stations, an emergency medical unit, one amphibian, one 6×6 truck, one fire truck, one rescue truck, two Humvees, four plastic boats, and welfare desks in some receiving hospitals.
Gordon said that in 2016, PRC aided 2,566 people who attended the Traslacion.
According to PRC, first aid stations and welfare desks will be built throughout the path of the Black Nazarene procession and will be positioned at the Aquino monument, Round table (Manila City Hall), Liwasang Bonifacio, Plaza Mexico (Post Office), Lacson (Sta Cruz area), San Sebastian, Jones Bridge, and near Quiapo Church.
Eleven hospitals have been identified to accommodate injured individuals in the event of accidents, with the referral of the Department of Health. These are: Jose Fabella Hospital, Jose Reyes Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital, Tondo Medical Center, Ospital ng Tondo, Ospital ng Sampaloc, Gat Andres Medical Center, Justice Abad Santos Memorial Medical Center, Sta. Ana Hospital, Philippine General Hospital, and Ospital ng Maynila.
MMDA command center
The MMDA will also set up a Command Center in the area to monitor the activities.
At least 1,300 MMDA personnel will be deployed for the procession to help manage traffic flow and provide medical assistance.
The deployment of rescue and emergency personnel would start on January 5 at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila where several activities would take place. (With reports from Christina I. Hermoso, Anna Liza Villas-Alavaren, and Jel Santos)
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