AT LEAST 5,000 persons, including police and soldiers from the Armed Forces, will be sent out on the streets of Cebu City to secure participants in the Sinulog and Fiesta Señor activities.

Authorities received no report of a threat to the festivities, but officials of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 are not taking any chances, said Chief Supt. Noli Taliño, PRO 7 director.

If needed, Taliño said, he can get more than 1,000 military reservists and additional police personnel from neighboring provinces.

“So far, security is doing well, hopefully until the end of the celebration. Having said that, we still encourage everyone to remain vigilant,” Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 operations chief Judy Gabato said during the Association of Government Information Officers (AGIO) forum yesterday.

Organizers of the Miss Universe pageant will reportedly send eight out of 85 candidates to join the grand parade aboard a float on Jan. 15.

Security

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said he considers the bombing in Hilongos, Leyte last week as a “very big threat.”

“I will not fool the Cebuanos with any kind of assurance because I have none to give,” he said.

The mayor lamented that his request for jamming devices, which he made last year to Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, has not been answered.

He would have wanted these placed in the Cebu City Sports Center grandstand, which can accommodate some 10,000 persons and which is where the Sinulog contingents put on a show for the judges.

“I wanted to make the grandstand a dead spot because improvised explosive devices can’t detonate without a signal... But I didn’t get any response to my request,” Osmeña said.

No VIPs

He also said he has not invited any VIPs because he’s “focused on peace and order.”

“I don’t need to invite anyone. They’ll come on their own as Sinulog is known worldwide,” he said.

Stricter security is also expected for the religious activities of the 452nd Fiesta Señor.

Fr. Pacifico “Jun” Nohara Jr., the newly installed rector and prior of the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, told reporters they have provided additional security guards inside the church, which will be open 24 hours a day starting tomorrow.

From their original 35 security guards, the Basilica has hired 60 more security personnel, said Fr. Aladin Luzon, OSA, who heads the fiesta committee on safety, security, peace and order.

Luzon added he is closely coordinating with the local police, the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, and the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) for their security preparations.

Gun, liquor ban

For added security measures, the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) will also impose a gun and liquor ban starting on Friday until the closing of the Sinulog celebrations on Jan. 20.

The authorities advised the public to avoid using backpacks, especially during the grand parade on Jan. 15.

Supt. Artemio Ricabo, deputy city director for administration, said that about 1,000 police personnel will be fielded in various points along the Sinulog route during the grand parade.

Twenty medical stations will also be set up.

The Cebu City Government has reduced the carousel route from six to four kilometers to make the grand parade smoother and safer.

In the same forum yesterday, Sinulog Foundation Inc. executive director Ricky Ballesteros announced that this year’s grand parade will have only 25 participating contingents, compared to last year’s 30.

Out of last year’s seven visiting contingents, only four will be joining this year. These are Dumaguete City, Catbalogan City in Samar, Province of Lanao del Norte, and Tangub City in Misamis Occidental.

Shortest

“This will be the shortest route in the history of Sinulog. We will announce the winners right after so that the participants can also rest by 5:30 p.m.,” Ballesteros said.

Also during the AGIO forum yesterday, Balik Cebu Committee chairperson Tetta Baad said that while their services can only accommodate a maximum of 500 persons, they have received about 2,000 requests from balikbayans.

Balik Cebu is a non-government organization that has been working with the City Government since 2001 in providing services for balikbayans who wish to witness the Sinulog.

The Fiesta Señor, which is the more traditional side of the celebration, will focus on the theme “Santo Niño: Source of Communion, Protector of Creation.”

Fr. Nohara said that this year’s theme is in connection with the thrust of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, which is dedicated to the Year of Parish as a Communion of Communities.

This year’s theme is also based on Pope Francis’ papal encyclical “Laudato Si,” which focuses on “caring for our common home.”