Eight government agencies are on heightened alert and joining forces with the city government of Manila and the National Capital Region Police Office to keep the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo on Saturday peaceful and orderly.
NCRPO chief Joel Pagdilao said the agencies are Metro Manila Development Authority, Department of Public Works and Highways, Office of the Civil Defense, the Armed Forces, Department of Health, Bureau of Fire Protection, Coast Guard and the Manila Police District.
Pagdilao said the NCRPO in coordination with these agencies will deploy 3, 500 policemen in Quiapo to help smoothen traffic and security along the route of the Black Nazarene procession.
Police ruled out terror threat but said intelligence units are helping monitor the situation to ensure the safety and security of the devotees. Authorities also tightened security near the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene and remained on heightened alert given the recent terrorist attacks in Europe and Africa.
House Independent Bloc leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte wished millions of Black Nazarene devotees a safe, orderly and clean procession.
Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association, reiterated his appeal to the devotees to observe supreme discipline to avoid similar incidents in the recent years where participants were even killed and many were injured.
A senatorial bet backed by several political blocs, Romualdez joined calls for the participants to maintain a clean environment during the entire procession.
“Our pious devotion to the Black Nazarene should be accorded too with our religious concerns to our environment. Let us avoid a pile of garbage unattended,” Romualdez said.
Pagdilao added the Manila Police will deploy thousands of personnel coming from the Special Weapons and Tactics-Explosives and Ordnance Division, traffic, emergency and response teams, intel/detective teams, route and venue security.
“We [already] have a security plan for this annual festivity and [as a rule] we do not provide the exact number of personnel to be deployed for this is an operational matter,” Pagdilao explained.
He noted that this will be a whole government approach as every agency is contributing to make sure that the both petty and high-profile criminals will not take advantage of the celebration.
Pagdilao said everything humanely possible will be done to ensure nothing untoward will happen during the procession.
The contingent to be dispatched will augment the existing number of enforcers from the National Police and the local government of Manila to ensure a peaceful and orderly celebration of the annual religious event.
MMDA ambulances, tow trucks, and personnel from the Rescue Unit will also be on alert to provide assistance in case of emergencies.
On Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, the image of the Black Nazarene will be brought to the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park for the yearly vigil.
Last year, a devotee died while several others collapsed and suffered minor injuries during the procession of the Black Nazarene.
Renato Gurion, 44 years old , suffered heart attack while the image of the Black Nazarene was about to move out of the Luneta Park.