MANILA, Philippines – Cement barriers will be put in place to protect Pope Francis when he visits the Philippines in January.
In an interview, Philippine Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr, director general of the APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, said they will use cement barriers, a lesson learned from Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Philippines in 1995.
“We’re using cement so it won’t be pushed,” said Paynor, who also led the planning for the 1995 visit. “If it’s a steel-linked fence and the crowd pushes, the people in front will die. Here, at least, if its low, then they can still escape [if they have to].”
He added, “Cement can be pushed technically, but these are the ones that will need cranes to be carried.”
Paynor said he learned his lesson from the last papal visit 20 years ago, when the head of security then told him to put barriers, a suggestion he refused. He said he thought policemen grasping hands would be enough to stop the crowd. He was wrong.
Paynor said an estimated 6 million people will be present during the Pope’s visit, compared to the 5 million people in 1995. Recalling the 1995 visit, Paynor said that although police forces were deployed to control the crowds, the “outpouring of enthusiasm” resulted to pushing and shoving of devotees and observers.
Because of this, Paynor said they want to make sure Pope Francis can be adequately protected and that the crowd can be controlled – especially since Pope Francis refuses to ride a bulletproof popemobile or wear a bulletproof vest.
Paynor gave assurances, however, that the cement barriers will not go to waste after the papal visit.
“They will be used as dividers for construction,” Paynor said. “It’s not going to waste. It will be reused. We need it anyway for the future.”
Pope Francis is expected to visit the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015, the first time the head of the Catholic Church will visit the country in almost two decades. – Rappler.com