Editorial: Fiesta crowd control

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Friday, January 17, 2014


THE success of the feast of the Sto. Niño has always been hinged on the size of the crowd its major activities draw.

This is especially true for the various activities handled by priests at the Basilica del Sto. Niño for the religious aspect and parallel programs and shows handled by the Cebu City Government and the Sinulog Foundation Inc. for the cultural aspect.

But as the number of people drawn in by the fiesta grows, so too the problems in peace and order. This is felt more in activities held in enclosed areas like the Basilica for the religious activities and the grandstand of the Cebu City Sports Center for the culmination program of the Sinulog Grand Parade.

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For this year’s fiesta, the old church whose belfry was damaged by the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu late last year has been closed to people attending the novena masses, which are primarily held at the Pilgrim’s Center. That further limited the capacity of the Basilica compound to hold the mass goers whose number continues to grow.

In most masses, the Pilgrims Center and its environs is cramped with people, posing problems in ingress and egress. Usually, churchgoers spill to the street, which has been closed to traffic. While no untoward incidents have happened so far, thanks in part to the patience showed by the faithful, still there is the continuing worry about the situation.

The same thing applies to the venue of the culminating program of the Cebu City Sports Center. Organizers have better control of the size of the crowd allowed at the grandstand of the sports center than the priests in relation to the crowd at the Basilica simply because the activity is open only to paying patrons.

Yet, the grandstand usually bursts at the seams with people either because the Sinulog foundation is overselling tickets to increase earnings or because scalpers have proliferated there. Again, we have here a volatile setup in crowd control, where one spark could cause chaos.

Crowd control does not only involve deploying policemen to the venues of activities to ensure order but also includes limiting the number of people allowed to attend these activities for better manageability.

Organizers should not wait for accidents to happen before going strict on this aspect of crowd control during the fiesta.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 17, 2014.

Opinion

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