Authorities are bracing for this year’s Black Nazarene procession in Manila on Wednesday which is expected to draw a record-breaking crowd of around 11 million.
In a phone interview, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) director Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina said that around 10,000 personnel from the police, other law enforcement and government agencies and volunteer groups would be on hand to ensure peace and order.
He based the figure on a “dress rehearsal” of security preparations for the procession held at the Quirino Grandstand recently. It was attended by around 3,500 Metro Manila police, members of the Special Weapons and Tactics unit, the Special Action Force, 100 Philippine Coast Guard personnel and representatives from volunteer and church groups.
Espina said policemen would be deployed starting Tuesday to command centers at the Quirino Grandstand—the starting point of the procession on Wednesday—as well as Quiapo church and other areas along the procession route.
On the other hand, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said it would assign 1,100 personnel to help maintain peace and order and ensure the smooth flow of traffic. It would also provide equipment ranging from ambulances to portalets, the agency added in a statement.
Last year’s procession drew more than eight million devotees and lasted for around 22 hours despite President Aquino’s warning about a terror threat. This prompted authorities to call on telecommunication firms to jam cell phone signals along the procession route to prevent a bomb attack that would have been triggered by a call to a cell phone.
No signal jamming
Espina said, however, that there was no such move this year as there was “no specific, imminent threat.” But at the same time, he urged devotees to “take it easy” during the procession to avoid injury to themselves and others as people tend to jostle and push each other for a chance to touch the Black Nazarene statue.