THE International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) is set to open on Sunday and judging from the announcements made by the Cebu Archdiocese, hosting the activity will, indeed, be a challenge. The IEC will be held from Jan. 24 to Jan. 31 and some of its activities are crowd drawers, meaning that, like the recent feast of the Sto. Niño, security and traffic flow would be a concern.
The executive director of the 51st IEC, Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo, has announced that as of Wednesday, IEC registrants already numbered 12,000, with 1,700 delegates coming from 71 countries. That's big for a base number of participants. To be added to that are non-delegates who will be flocking to the major activities. With big crowds, road closures become a necessity.
The first crowd drawer would be the 4 p.m. opening mass, which will be held at the Plaza Independencia. Because of this, Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) executive director Rey Gealon said roads surrounding the plaza will be closed to vehicles. That would affect travel to and from south Cebu.
On Jan. 29, a mass will be held at 4 p.m. the Capitol grounds, prompting the closure of the roads around the area. The mass will be followed by a procession going to Plaza Independencia, where again the roads will be closed.
The closing ceeremony on Jan. 31 includes a mass that will be held at the South Road Properties (SRP). Around one million people are expected to crowd the area so that while no roads would be closed, heavy traffic along the Cebu Couth Coastal Road and the Mambaling access road is expected.
The day before that, or on Jan. 28, one lane of the old Mandaue-Mactan bridge will be closed in the afternoon for a Jericho Walk or Pilgrim's Walk, again posing traffic problems in a route that even suffers from congestion on normal days.
Measures are already in place to minimize the problems that will be encountered during the various events, like schools located near the activity sites deciding not to hold classes, the deployment of additional traffic enforcers and the holding of dry runs before the actual road closures.
Of course, awareness by commuters is also important. In this sense, the admonition by Rafael Yap, CCTO department head, is worth repeating: “Steer clear of the IEC activity areas to avoid inconvenience” and “Leave early for your destinations and plan your trips ahead.”