‘Pass your papers’: PH irons out final preps for papal visit

Bea Cupin

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‘Pass your papers’: PH irons out final preps for papal visit
Over half a million Filipinos will be able to fit along the 22 kilometer route from the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City to the Pope’s official residence in Manila – his first interaction with the general public in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Just as Pope Francis began his journey from Sri Lanka to the Philippines, government officials completed last-minute security preparations for his arrival.

“Pass your papers, ready or not,” Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said in jest during a press briefing at the Aloha Hotel in Manila on Thursday, January 15. Roxas is also chairman of the National Police Commission, which oversees the Philippine National Police.

Francis is expected to arrive 5:45 pm Thursday at the Villamor Airbase. The Pope will then travel from Pasay City to the Apostolic Nunciature or the Vatican Embassy in a ceremonial route that may take up to 4 hours.

POPEMOBILE. Security officers cling to a special 'Jeepney', a popular and uniquely Filipino mode of mass transport, which Pope Francis is expected to ride, as it drives on a street in Manila, 12 January 2015. Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino said authorities expect up to 500,000 people to gather along the 22 kilometer route, during which Francis will be on board his non-bulletproof popemobile.

A 4-layer barrier will be enforced for the Pope’s ceremonial route composed of police and soldiers, “covert security,” representatives from local government units and parishes, and finally the general public.

This is to prevent a mob similar to what happened when Pope John Paul II visited the country in 1995

Beginning 3 pm, the main ceremonial route will be closed to traffic while the alternative route will be closed beginning 5 pm. (See full list of Pope Francis’ route here)

Nagawa na lahat ng pamahalaan, ng simbahan ang dapat gagawin. Ang kailangan na lang ay ang tulong at kooperasyon ng publiko (The government and the Church has done its part. What is needed now is the help and cooperation of the public),” added Tolentino.

Police officials also urged Metro Manila residents who plan to take part in any of the papal visit events to secure their homes and avoid leaving their belongings in parked vehicles since up to 70% of the police force in the region have been deployed to secure the Pope and the crowds that will follow him around.

No arrests have been made in connection to the papal visit, National Capital Region Police Office chief Police Director Carmelo Valmoria told reporters.

Change in Luneta route

Roxas also announced the Pope will be taking a longer route around the main “area of concern” during the Sunday, January 18, mass at Luneta, upon the request of the Vatican. The new route, which will see the popemobile go around in an “S” instead of a “U”-shaped route will allow the pontiff to interact with more mass-goers.

Church officials had earlier announced the Pope’s visit to the Philippines will be both state and pastoral in nature, since the Pope is also the sovereign leader of the Vatican, a city-state.

Pope Francis, through the Vatican, asks the Philippine government to change his route during the January 18 Mass in Luneta. Instead of a "U"-shaped route around Luneta (as seen in the photo), the Pope will go around in an "S" shape so he can interact with more people. Rappler photo

Part of the Pope’s route around Luneta, a spot close to the Quirino Grandstand, will be occupied with persons with disabilities (PWDs), said Roxas. During his trip to Sri Lanka, the Pope also devoted time to interact with PWDs.

No other changes were announced with regards to the papal visit, although Roxas said the government is ready to accommodate any last-minute changes and side trip, if asked. Francis had made impromptu changes during previous visits to other countries.

“At the end of the day, it’s the Pope who will decide….This is a Pastoral visit. Bilang pastol dito sa flock sa Pilipinas, kinakailangan siyang makita at makita rin niya ang ating mga kababayan (As the shepherd of his flock in the Philippines, he needs to be seen and he needs to see our countrymen),” said Roxas.

PH’s other visitor

The Philippines will also play host to another larger-then-life visitor, Tropical Storm Amang.

Based on the latest data from state weather bureau PAGASA, Amang will not make landfall in the country but will bring rain, particularly to the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions.

Amang will be closest to the Philippines on Saturday, January 17, bringing light to moderate rains to Bicol and Eastern Visayas. Francis is set to visit Typhoon Yolanda-hit Leyte the same day, in order to meet survivors of the typhoon.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chief Undersecretary Alexander Pama cautioned the public – particularly those planning to go to Leyte by sea – to heed the government’s warnings, since Amang will bring rain and cause strong waves.

The Pope’s scheduled trip to Leyte is unlikely to be disrupted by Amang, although Pama said it will still be up to the Pope if the Leyte visit will push through. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.