Gov’t finalizes elaborate security for Pope Francis
(First of two parts)
MANILA, Philippines – Three days before the pastoral visit of Pope Francis, joint government agencies and security forces have finally laid out the security plans for the much-awaited Philippine trip of the pontiff.
Cabinet secretaries and top police and military officials gave the media on Monday a glimpse of what to expect in the four-day papal visit, considered one of the biggest security challenges for the country this year.
Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said security will be much tighter now that the country’s population ballooned to100 million from 68 million in1995 when five million flocked to Quirino Grandstand in Manila to see Pope John Paul II.
“This is not an overreaction. We’re preparing this to secure the Pope and the public in line of the recent events like the deadly stampede in China,” Roxas said.
All events are cut into 44 sub events (arrival, route going to University of Santo Tomas or the Mall of Asia). Each one will have specific ground commander and all of these will be supervised by the national committee headed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and other Cabinet officials.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) command center will be at the Aloha Hotel on Quirino Avenue corner Roxas Blvd.
In a meeting with the media, Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya said no-fly and no-sail zones will be enforced at certain hours while the Pope is in the country.
Abaya said the Philippine Coast Guard will not allow bancas, leisure yachts to venture near the venues of Pope Francis’ scheduled engagements (200 meters from a certain distance to the coast).
Ports will be allowed to operate, he added, but all ships coming in will be screened.
The no-fly zone will be imposed within three nautical mile radius and 18,000 feet of altitude.
Roxas also reminded news outlets that no camera drones will be allowed to fly during the Pope’s engagements.
“Aside from being arrested, those who will be flying drones will be fined by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines with P300,000 to P500,000. So that’s definitely much more than the drone you’ll invest,” Abaya said.
During the Pope’s arrival, flight to Tacloban, and his departure, there will be changes in flight schedules at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport since airports will be closed to arriving aircraft for selected hours.
“There will be [some] arrivals that will be allowed but all departures will be allowed,” he said.
In preparation for the Pope’s arrival at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City on Thursday afternoon, the secretaries presented the roads that will be closed and route changes.
The Pope will be having an open motorcade going to his temporary residence at the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue, Manila after his arrival at about 5 p.m.
After the Pope’s courtesy call in Malacañang and meeting with families at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City, the Pope will fly to Tacloban, Leyte.
Roxas said the Mass officiated by the Pope will be held at a 10-hectare open area near the Tacloban airport. A motorcade to Palo, also in Leyte, will follow where he will have lunch with Yolanda victims.
“Equal preparations are being done in Tacloban and Palo. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Lieutenant General Gregorio Catapang will also go there,” he said.
“The challenge in Tacloban is the expected surge of crowd at the 12-kilomter open motorcade going to Palo, Leyte,” he added.
On Saturday afternoon, Francis will also fly back to Manila.
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