SIX days before the first event of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC), Cebu City’s traffic managers advised motorists to avoid areas around the closed roads to minimize inconvenience.

The public should plan their trip to certain areas of Cebu City on Jan. 24 and 29, when major thoroughfares will be closed, said lawyer Rey Gealon, the Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) executive director.

Gealon approved the request of Bishop Dennis Villarojo, secretary of the 51st IEC local organizing committee, to close certain roads for masses and a procession during the IEC week.

He urged commuters and motorists to take note of the road closures and alternative routes, and to plot their routes on the affected days.

On Jan. 24, a Sunday, the roads surrounding Plaza Independencia will be closed to vehicles for the opening mass at 4 p.m. M.J. Cuenco Ave., from M.C. Briones to Legaspi Extension, and Arellano Blvd. will be closed.

The same roads will be closed at 7 p.m. onwards on Jan. 29, a Friday, for a procession and benediction.

‘Plan ahead’

Also on Jan. 29, the roads around the Capitol will be closed for the 4 p.m. mass that will be celebrated in front of the building. A stretch of Escario St., from Gil Garcia St. to Juana Osmeña St., will be closed, as well as a portion of S. Osmeña Blvd., from the corner of Escario St. down to Jose Avila St.

The roads will be closed as early as Friday dawn since organizers still need to arrange chairs and other equipment.

On Jan. 31, a Sunday, some one million people are expected to attend mass in the South Road Properties at the closing of the IEC, but roads there will not be closed for the event.

“We request the public to steer clear of the IEC activity areas to avoid inconvenience. Leave early for your destinations and plan your trips ahead by checking the news or Facebook page of CCTO for alternative routes,” said lawyer Rafael Yap, the CCTO department head.

Yesterday dawn, the CCTO and the local organizing committee held a dry run for the mass at the Capitol and the procession and, according to Gealon, “everything went smoothly.”

Meanwhile, Acting Mayor Edgardo Labella wrote 2Go Group, Inc. and requested the firm to allow the City Government to extend the use of cargo containers in the Devotees City until the end of the IEC.

Devotees’ shelter

Labella said underprivileged devotees who want to witness the IEC events can stay at the Devotees City, if 2G0 grants his request.

The Devotees City is beside the facility on the Compaña Maritima lot where street dwellers can stay if they don’t want to be on the streets during the IEC week.

Also yesterday, police officials assured they have learned their lesson in terms of how they should take care of their personnel during big events, like the 51st IEC.

In a press conference organized by the Association of Government Information Officers (AGIO) 7 yesterday, Senior Supt. Rey Lyndon Lawas assured that their police officers will not go hungry while they are securing the IEC delegates. Lawas serves as chief of the 51st IEC Security Task Group.

During the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Cebu last year, one of the issues was the quality of the lodgings and food provided for security personnel.

Learning from that episode, Lawas said that PRO 7 has decided to hire caterers per city to prepare food packs for their personnel.

In terms of lodging, some police personnel will be temporarily housed in the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).

All of us

Lawas assured that police personnel living in the CICC will be given amenities such as water and electricity.

The Department of Health (DOH) 7 will also provide free flu shots to medical and police personnel to ensure that they are in good health during the IEC.

Lawas also urged the public to take an active role in ensuring the safety of IEC delegates. They can do so by being vigilant and reporting persons who could cause trouble during the congress.

“We are conceptualizing the ‘whole of nation’ approach, wherein everybody, whatever sector you belong to, has a role to play. Remember that even the smallest things you do will contribute so much to the safety of the whole,” Lawas said.

Following the conclusion of this year’s Sinulog, Lawas said that the police could face three challenges in the IEC: an increase in petty crimes during big events, crowd control, and traffic management.

Lawas said that aside from the 15,000 delegates who are expected to attend the IEC, they will need to secure the Catholics, expected to run into the millions, who will attend the public activities.