MANILA, Philippines – Telecommunication networks will block cellular signals in Cebu during the Sinulog Festival on January 14 and 15, the government announced on Friday, January 13.
Globe, Smart, TNT, and Sun are required to comply with the directive issued by the National Telecommunications Commission. Services will be restored to normal as soon as NTC gives the go-signal.
Although no security threats had been reported on the city’s biggest feast, the NTC and the Philippine National Police are undertaking the pre-emptive measure, specifically in areas along the route of the procession of Sto Niño de Cebu and the Sinulog Festival Grand Parade.
Signal will be blocked in the following areas:
- Cebu City
The temporary jamming of cellphone signals will be implemented to prevent the use of phones from detonating improvised explosive devices (IED).
Cebu City will also be a “no-fly zone” for drones during the parade. Those who want to fly zones will have to secure permits, the government added.
The counter-measure against terrorism was also done in the recently concluded “Traslacion” or feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila on January 9.
Mayor Osmeña: Bear with us
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña apologized for the cellular network shutdown this weekend for the Sinulog festival, explaining that it is an “inconvenience” that can help guarantee the safety of attendees to one of the Philippines’ most popular festivals. (FAST FACTS: Things to know about Sinulog)
In a Facebook post on Friday, January 13, Osmeña recalled that two explosions last year – the December blast in Hilongos, Leyte, and the September blast in Davao City – involved bombs that were designed to be activated by cellphones.
“I’m very sorry for the inconvenience of the cell shutdown, but it is an inconvenience that can save lives. The Hilongos terror bombing in Leyte a few weeks ago involved 2 bombs, of which one failed to detonate. The detonator on the retrieved bomb was designed to be activated by cell. The bomb that exploded in Davao last September was also likely detonated by cell,” Osmeña said.
The city mayor assured festival goers that police and medical personnel will be deployed around the city and will be easily reachable even without cellular signal.
He added that landline phones remain active.
Osmeña also urged Sinulog attendees to help security forces by reporting suspicious persons or activities.
“Even with the additional personnel the military is sending, the police is still a force of thousands trying to protect a population of millions. They cannot be everywhere all the time,” he said.
“We need your help. If you spot anything suspicious, please report it immediately to the first policeman you find. It’s that simple. We’ll handle the rest,” he added.
Osmeña also said that while it was not his intention to “darken the mood” of the festival, he said the safety of festival goers is a priority over everything else.
“Cebu hasn’t had a terror incident since the 90’s, so let’s hope and pray that it stays that way. We are doing everything we can to make sure it does,” Osmeña said. – Rappler.com
Rappler intern Enrico Belga Jr is a senior AB Mass Communication student from Centro Escolar University.