14 January 2015

Palace fends off rumor on Manila ports’ closure during Pope Francis’ visit
The Palace on Wednesday clarified that Manila’s ports will continue to operate during the visit of Pope Francis, contrary to some reports.

“Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras would like to clarify that the ports of Manila will not be closed for five days, as rumored,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a press statement issued on Wednesday.

“There had been meetings and discussions on coming up with an effective plan on how to handle port operations during the time of the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis.”

Secretary Almendras heads the Cabinet Cluster on Port Congestion.

Secretary Coloma explained that although the ports would be unable to accept outbound cargoes during the holidays, they will continue to service ships that are unloading cargoes and help move out empty containers.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has confirmed that there is no such thing as a total truck ban during the five-day holiday, Coloma said, quoting Almendras.

The Palace official also said that trucks will be allowed in the regular truck routes during the allowed hours, except routes that will be affected by the activities during the Pope’s visit.

The routes that will be temporarily closed will be re-opened once the events’ venues have been cleared, he added.

“Secretary Almendras wishes to assure businessmen, importers and exporters that the five-day event will not significantly hamper our continuous efforts for the efficient operations of the ports of Manila,” Coloma noted.

“He continues his appeal for all stakeholders to cooperate and implement the agreed plans and actions during the Pope’s visit.”

Pope Francis, who is currently in Sri Lanka, is arriving in the country on Thursday, January 15 for a five-day visit to the Philippines. The pope will attend several events in Manila as well as in Leyte during his pastoral visit. PND (as)

Government disseminates information to ensure safe, orderly visit of Pope Francis
The government has released infographics, advising the people about flight schedules, road closures, as well as ways to ensure everyone’s safety during the five-day visit of Pope Francis, which starts Thursday.

“The President has asked us to do some infographics and to remind and inform the people,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday.

“We’d like to ask you to share and disseminate (these infographics),” he told reporters.

The infographics contain the Pope’s itinerary during his entire stay here in the Philippines, from arrival to departure, Lacierda said.

There are information on the operations of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport during the papal visit, he said, noting that at certain times, arrivals and departures will not be allowed, depending on aircraft activity or aircraft turnaround.

There is also an advisory on the no-fly zone, he added.

On the operations of the Light Rail Transit, Lacierda said the Quirino LRT station will remain closed from January 15 to 19 but the entire LRT Line will be open.

Trains will bypass the Quirino station from January 15 to January 19, he said, noting that the station will be closed from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday January 15; and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday January 17.

On Friday January 16, and on Sunday January 18, the Quirino station will be closed the entire day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
On Monday January 19, the day of the pope’s departure, it will be closed from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m.

The Palace is also disseminating safety reminders to the public to ensure the security of the pope and those attending his events, especially the Holy Mass at Rizal Park.

“For the Luneta event, which is expected to draw millions of visitors, we’d like to emphasize three things: be calm, don’t push, and don’t run,” Lacierda said.

At the same time, he called on those joining the events to practice good manners and right conduct by not littering and refraining from making pranks that might cause the crowd to panic.

He advised the people to bring identification cards, snacks, raincoats instead of umbrellas, and put these things in transparent plastic bags instead of backpacks.

He also cautioned the people against bringing fragile items, wearing expensive jewelry and bringing too much cash.
“There will be an opportunity for some to filch from other people’s pockets,” he said.

He further advised the people not to bring alcohol and pets.

All the reminders and information could be found in the government website www.gov.ph, Lacierda said.

The government also came up with a video on crowd safety reminders, which was shown to the media on Wednesday.

Pope Francis is arriving on Thursday for a five-day visit to the Philippines, the second leg of his Asian tour, after Sri Lanka. PND (as)

President Aquino to surprise Pope Francis with special token
President Benigno S. Aquino III wants to surprise Pope Francis with customary gifts when they meet on Friday, a Palace official said.

“We will surprise the Pope with our customary gifts, but we don’t know what the gifts would be as yet,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

Like other visiting foreign leaders, Pope Francis will be accorded the formalities and dignities of a head of state, Lacierda noted.

“And as such, he will be provided a gift, as we provide all the other heads of state. As we have also seen in Sri Lanka,” he said, adding that because of his role as a head of state, Pope Francis will be given all the honors that befit a head of state.

The only difference, he said, is that the pope will also have a general audience with senior Cabinet officials and members of the diplomatic corps.

The pope, who is arriving on Thursday, will have an audience of 450 individuals at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace.

Pope Francis is in Sri Lanka for the first leg of his week-long Asian tour. After Sri Lanka, he will proceed to the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, for a five-day visit.

He will attend several activities in Manila and Leyte while in the Philippines. PND (as)

Government carrying out new security arrangement for Pope Francis’ visit
The government’s National Organizing Committee, tasked to iron out preparations for the visit of Pope Francis, has done several improvements to ensure the safety of the pontiff during his visit.

Under the new security arrangement, authorities will allow more people to have a glimpse of the visiting head of the Roman Catholic Church when he arrives in Manila on Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during Wednesday’s press briefing.

The committee has studied footages of the motorcade of Pope John II in 1995 when he arrived for World Youth Day at the Quirino Grandstand, Lacierda said.

The committee, he said, changed the layout of Roxas Boulevard as part of the new security set-up to prevent people from moving once the pope’s convoy nears.

The crowd will now be allowed to take the entire northbound lane going to Luneta as well as the center island, he explained.

Authorities have also put up barricades and have deployed security personnel, he added.

“So, instead of people surging to see (the pope), the crowd will now be allowed to occupy the northbound lane.”

Authorities have also formed grids to create buffer areas, and inside the grids are mini quadrants, he said.

“There will be buffer areas. In case magkaroon ng tulakan and stampede, meron kang area to move to,” he noted.

In 1995, organizers had to airlift Pope John Paul II in and out of the grandstand because it was impossible for the Pope mobile to enter the area.

Lacierda said each grid will be manned by eight police personnel, 400 AFP reservists, eight to 10 Health Department personnel, eight to 10 Red Cross volunteers and two marshals.

Every morning, officials have been holding security briefings, Lacierda said, adding that Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa will meet on Thursday morning for another security briefing. PND (as)