THE plan of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña to again shut down cellular phone signals during the Sinulog festivities next year as part of security measures has gained the support of festival organizers.
Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI) executive director Ricky Ballesteros pointed out that there were no problems and complaints reported in this year’s Sinulog when cell sites were shut down by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) last January.
“We already did that in (the) last Sinulog. I think it helps and it’s effective for the safety of participants and spectators,” he told Cebu Daily News.
In fact, other festivals in the country such as Iloilo City’s Dinagyang Festival last January and Zamboanga City’s Hermosa Festival last month followed the same measure after Sinulog implemented the cell shut down, said Ballesteros.
Last Monday, Mayor Osmeña raised the possibility of again asking the NTC to shut down cellular phone signals for Sinulog 2018 to avert possible terrorist attacks.
“If nothing happens, everyone will blame me for being ‘KJ’ (killjoy). I don’t care. I’m really terrified because the terrorists were badly hurting Marawi (City) and they have every motivation para makabaws g’yud sila (to get even),” the mayor had then said.
Sinulog, dubbed as the country’s biggest festival, draws in hundreds of thousands of tourists and locals into the streets of Cebu City to witness a grand colorful parade in honor of Cebu’s patron, Señor Sto. Niño every third Sunday of January.
Last year, cell phone signals were shut down by NTC in some portions of the cities of Cebu and Mandaue during the fluvial procession and the solemn foot procession of the image of the Sto. Niño on the day before the feast of the Child Jesus.
Cell sites were also shut down in Cebu City during Sunday’s Sinulog Grand Parade.
People resorted to using landlines to make calls and land-based internet connections to open their social media accounts and emails. Others used mobile applications that allowed smartphones to chat without using an internet connection.
Ballesteros told CDN that if the plan to shut down cell sites pushes through in next year’s Sinulog, the announcement must be made earlier to give people more time to prepare and adjust their schedules.
The Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) remained tight-lipped on Osmeña’s plan for a cell shut down during next year’s Sinulog festivities, but agreed with the mayor’s plan to ban alcoholic beverages and street parties near and along the routes of the solemn procession and the grand parade.
“Wala pa naman tayong narereceive na information tungkol doon. So maghihintay muna tayo ng recommendation (We have not yet received information about the proposal. So we will just first wait for the recommendation),” said CCPO director Senior Supt. Joel Doria when asked to comment on the plan to shut off cellphone signals.
Doria pointed out that the Sinulog Festival does not only involve Cebu City but also its neighboring cities like Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.
According to Doria, it will be up to Police Regional Office director Chief Supt. Jose Mario Espino whether or not to agree with the mayor’s proposal.
Doria, however, expressed support for Osmeña’s planned liquor ban contained in a draft executive order titled “An Order Regulating Business Establishments and Vendors During Sinulog Festival 2018,” which aims to avoid a repeat of the previous year’s alcohol-soaked parties that left people sleeping off their hangover on the streets.
“Lesson learned din yun base sa experience natin at ni mayor na merong mga nag-complain na mga nanunuod lang pero parang nahirapan sila kasi maraming unruly crowd and nagiinuman na sa kalsada (This is also a lesson learned for us and the mayor based on our experience with complaints from those who had a hard time watching the festivities because of the unruly crowd and all the drinking that went on by the road),” said Doria.