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GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – A 500-strong security force has been mobilized to help protect hundreds of thousands of revelers from all over the country and abroad who will take part in a three-day merry-making at a beach in Sarangani later in May.
Officials said Sarbay Fest (Sarangani Bay Festival), touted as Mindanao’s biggest beach party, returns to the white sand beaches of Gumasa in Glan town from May 25 to 27, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sarangani provincial administrator Ryan Jay Ramos said during a press conference on Wednesday, May 17, they have involved various security and law enforcement units like the police, army, maritime police, Coast Guard, navy and even anti-disaster rescue personnel, to help secure the staging of the event.
“We are strictly in coordination with security and law enforcement units, preparing for any unforeseen events, like stampedes or terror attacks,” Ramos said.
Sarangani police Chief Colonel Nicomedes Olaivar Jr. said they are finalizing security preparations and deployment of security forces to ensure the safety of visitors.
Olaivar said they will provide round-the-clock security for the venue of the event, via land, sea, and air.
Organizers of the event anticipate the number of visitors to swell to more than 200,000. This estimate is based on the previous staging of Sarbay fest where the number of visitors increased by tens of thousands every year until the activity was deferred in 2019 due to the pandemic.
The Sarangani Provincial Information Office said from 3,000 tourist arrivals when Sarbay Fest began in 2006, the number increased to over 150,000 in 2019.
Sarbay Fest began in 2006 to promote Sarangani Bay as a protected seascape. It began to draw tourists and became a regular annual event when Provincial Ordinance No. 2006-5-030 declared every third week of May as Sarangani Bay Festival Week.
Ramos said the event is a venue to appreciate the need to preserve the wealth and abundance of marine resources in Sarangani Bay, considered by many as a hidden paradise.
The event is held along a six-hectare shoreline at the Gumasa Cove, where various sports competitions, nightly entertainment, and environmental protection activities take place.
This year’s festival carries the theme “Return to Paradise,” which organizers believe will draw more visitors and tourists who are eagerly waiting to take part in the grand return of the festival.
Tourists and visitors from outside Sarangani who take part in the event usually travel by air from Luzon or Visayas or bus if coming from other points in Mindanao to General Santos City where they can take cabs or available public transportation to bring them to Glan, some 65 kilometers or an hour’s drive from General Santos City.
The local government of Glan collects a P50 environmental fee from each visitor as required by the town’s Tourism Ecological Fee Ordinance. – Rappler.com