Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada on Saturday downplayed fears that terrorist elements would disrupt the Black Nazarene procession on Monday, describing the possibility of attacks from them as “very minimal.”
Estrada said this as the Manila Police District again reminded millions of devotees of the Black Nazarene not to bring backpacks during the procession, also called the “Traslacion,” to avoid being confronted by security officers.
“Our security organizations have not detected any terror threat related to Traslacion. The possibility of such terror attack is very minimal,” Estrada said after being briefed by MPD director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel.
Coronel is the commander of the 6,000-strong combined police, military, and civilian security force that will be deployed during the procession. “Force multipliers” composed of barangay officials, paramedics, firefighters, traffic aides, non-governmental organizations and members of communication groups will back them up.
Meanwhile, the Archdiocese of Manila and environmental groups urged Black Nazarene devotees to observe cleanliness during the celebration and called on Filipinos to show their devotion by keeping the environment clean.
The procession of the Black Nazarene, which usually lasts for 20 hours, is the largest religious procession in the country, with over one million devotees of the icon that resides in Manila’s Quiapo Church joining every year.
Last year’s procession produced 300 tons of garbage that took the city days to collect, the church office said.
“We need to instill among the devotees the awareness that caring and concern for God’s creation are integral to their devotion to Nuestro Padre Nazareno,” said Lou Valencia Arsenio, Manila Archdiocesan ecology program coordinator.
The Catholic church said the religious festival should not turn the entire Manila district into “an immense pile of filth and the people should heed the church’s call for “ecological conversion” by making this year’s feast trash-free.
Reiterating that no security threats have so far been monitored by the intelligence community, Coronel advised the public to calm down and not entertain any talk of terrorist activity.
“Of course, we all agree that the threat exists regarding the possibility of a terror attack in any situation, including the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene,” the MPD chief said. “But is there a strong possibility or likelihood that such attacks will happen? Based on the assessment of our intelligence community, it is very minimal.”
If the threat is high, Coronel said security officials would recommend the postponement of Monday’s procession of the image of a black-skinned Jesus carrying a cross. “In fact, that was one of the key points which led to the decision for authorities to push through with the Traslacion,” he added.
Armed Forces of the Philippines Joint Task Force NCR chief Col. Llewelyn Binasoy confirmed they have not detected any security threat as of Wednesday, but radio signal jammers along the procession route will be installed as part of the security measures.
Arsenio said one objective of the archdiocese is to set up a waste management system “whereby at least 75 percent of the trash in the Luneta and Quiapo grounds (where the procession will pass) are properly collected, segregated, and processed with the assistance of volunteers and the employment—to help in their livelihood—of at least 100 jobless and homeless from the Luneta and Sta. Cruz areas.”
“For this, we appeal for more volunteers to help direct the devotees to responsibly manage their trash during the Quiapo fiesta as a sign of their true devotion and love for the Black Nazarene,” she said.
The Archdiocesan Ministry on Ecology also reminded every devotee to be personally responsible for the cleanliness of his or her surroundings during the fiesta.
“As a manifestation of true devotion and love for the Black Nazarene, each one must be an example of care [for] God’s own creation,” said Arsenio, noting there will be proper places for disposing garbage as well as uniformed volunteers with IDs who will roam around with black plastic bags to collect the refuse.
“There is no reason for anyone to litter in Luneta or Quiapo,” Arsenio added.
Coronel called on the devotees not to bring backpacks because they may contain explosive materials and other dangerous contraband. For those who really need to bring bags, they may deposit them at 10 command posts located in strategic points along the procession route.
“Please avoid bringing backpacks. All you need is a hand towel or handkerchief, and plastic water bottle,” the Manila police chief said. “If you notice suspicious-looking persons or situations, please report it to any security personnel.”
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