By Erma Edera and Martin Sadongdong
Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada has ordered the suspension of classes at all levels and work in government offices in the city of Manila except those involved in the “Traslacion” on Wednesday, January 9, in anticipation of the millions of devotees who will flock to the streets for the Black Nazarene procession.
City Administrator Ericson Alcovendaz made the announcement during a press briefing on security preparations for the Traslacion at the Quiapo Church.
Around 7,200 police officers will be deployed at the procession route, according to National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Guillermo Eleazar 2,200 of which will be coming from the Manila Police District (MPD) while the remaining 5,000 personnel will serve as augmentation force from the Regional Mobile Force Battalion (RMFB) and the other four districts namely the Quezon City Police District (QCPD), Northern Police District (NPD), Eastern Police District (EPD) and Southern Police District (SPD).
Work in government offices will be suspended except those who will be directly involved during Traslacion such as in peace and order, traffic enforcement, disaster and risk reduction management, health and sanitation, issuance of business permits, and collection of taxes.
Jones Bridge secured
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) assured that the Jones Bridge would be highly secured from the waterfront for the anticipated ‘Traslacion’ on January 9 when millions of devotees are expected to pass the bridge.
PCG Capt.Rolando Punzalan said that they have collected 30 watercrafts to cover the security in Manila Bay.
Punzalan said that a “no sail zone” policy will be implemented on the day of the procession and they will assign special operations divers and anti-terrorist team to provide safety to the devotees.
Department of Public Works and Highways-National Capital Region Engineer Rey Rosario said that some sections of road in Manila will still undergo repair to ensure that the route for the procession of the Black Nazarene is safe of any obstructions.
Rosario said that they were also conducting local and national road clearing in the city in cooperation with the Manila Department of Public Services and Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
The McArthur Bridge which connects Quiapo to Taft Avenue in Manila is still undergoing repair so it is not included in the route, he said.
In previous processions, the route of the Traslacion passed through P. Burgos, crossing Lagusnilad Bridge in front of the Manila and Jones Bridge.
Meanwhile, the Bureau of Fire Protection-NCR will also deploy 25 fire trucks in Quiapo, Manila and Quirino Grandstand.
Dr. Patrick Co of the Department of Health-NCR said that they will deploy14 health emergency response teams in the route of the Black Nazarene procession. Co said that they have also advised medical teams to standby in the different hospitals in Manila.
The 6.1-kilometer procession of the Black Nazarene will start at 7 a.m. at the Quirino Grandstand on January 9 and will end at the Quiapo Church.
The route is divided into 10 segments: Segment 1 is from Quirino Grandstand to P. Burgos corner Roxas Boulevard; Segment 2 from P. Burgos/Roxas Boulevard to Finance Road; Segment 3 from Finance Road to Bonifacio Shrine or KKK Monument; Segment 4 from Bonifacio Shrine/KKK Monument to Jones Bridge-Escolta; Segment 5 from Escolta-Quintin Paredes Street to C. Palanca Plaza Fair; Segment 6 from Palanca/Sta. Cruz to Palanca-Quezon Boulevard; Segment 7 from Arlegui/Quezon Blvd. to Arlegui-Nepomuceno Street; Segment 8 from Arlegui-Nepomuceno to Carcer-F.R. Hidalgo Street; Segment 9 from Carcer-Hidalgo to Gonzalo Puyat to Guzman Street; and Segment 10 from De Guzman-Puyat-Villalobos Street to Quiapo Church.
“Each segment, we will have a complete structure. It is manned by a commander with all the components and assistance from other government agencies,” Eleazar said in a press conference held at a base in Quiapo Church together with the local government unit of Manila, Church representatives, and other concerned agencies.
Currently, Eleazar said three activities were already finished as part of the Traslacion 2019.
These are the Thanksgiving Procession held on December 31, 2018; the Procession of the Blessed Virgin Mary last January 1; and the First Friday Mass held on January 4.
“So we have three more activities remaining: the blessing of the replicas of the Black Nazarene on January 7; the “Pahalik” on January 8; and the actual procession on January 9,” he explained.
The procession will start at midnight of January 9 with a mass at the Quirino Grandstand; followed by the morning prayer at around 1 a.m.
The procession will start at 5 a.m.
A few days before the event, Eleazar said the NCRPO is already 85-percent ready and he expects the force will be 100-percent okay on the day of the procession.
“We have not received any security threat as of now but our monitoring is continuous. We’re coordinating with the entire intelligence community,” Eleazar said.
“We’re also hoping for the vigilance of the public so that if they notice any suspicious individuals or activities, they should report it to the nearest police station for an immediate action or just dial 911,” he added.
He noted that the NCRPO requested concerned agencies to implement a no-fly, no sail, and no telecommunications signal zone in the routes covered by the procession.
“We request the public to bring a lot of patience. Do not bring pointed objects and other prohibited items that may cause injury to other people,” Eleazar said.
“We also advise the devotees to refrain from bringing small children. This is not like an event at an amusement park. Last time, it took 22 hours from Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo because a lot of devotees wanted to touch the Black Nazarene, most of them were small children,” he recalled.
The NCRPO estimates that for this year, around 2.5 million devotees will participate in the Traslacion.