For the second year in a row, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has implemented a temporary shutdown of mobile phone services in Cebu City during the Sinulog Festival’s grand finale, citing the need to secure the safety of the public.
Chief Supt. Robert Quenery, the newly-installed director of Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7), said the signal interruption will be implemented from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and will affect specific areas in Cebu City.
Signal interruption was also experienced yesterday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. during the solemn procession and the Pontifical Mass at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño.
Telecommunication networks Globe Telecom and Smart Philippines, sent advisories on Saturday afternoon informing their subscribers of the signal interruption following an order from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
Globe said the loss of signal would affect mobile and Globe at Home LTE and prepaid WiFi services in some parts of Cebu City and neighboring areas.
Smart, along with Sun and TnT, said they will restore mobile phone services once they receive the go-signal from the authorities.
Randolph Alburo, a registered nurse now working in the United Kingdom, took the mobile phone service interruption in stride, saying that returning home to Cebu for the Fiesta Señor is about reconnecting to one’s roots and faith.
“If it’s for everyone’s safety, I support the government and the authorities’ decision. If it’s done for security measures, then so be it,” he told Cebu Daily News in an interview.
He added, “The signal interruption is expected because it happened before. The positive side of the signal interruption is that people are prepared. They planned their activities ahead of time.”
A Sto. Niño devotee since 2003, Alburo, 32, become a registered nurse in the UK in April 2017 and believed it was through the intercession of the Sto. Niño that he became a better provider for his family.
Alburo came home to Cebu on January 9 to join his family and friends to commemorate the Fiesta Señor, a religious celebration that the resident of Barrio Luz in Cebu has been observing since he was a child.
He said he booked the flight in September 2017 and got a promotional roundtrip fare for P33,000.
“This has been my tribute and homage to the Holy Child. (This is) my way of saying ‘thank you’ for all the blessings I received most especially for making me pass the exams in the UK, which made me now a registered UK nurse,” said Alburo.
Fr. Ric Anthony Reyes, spokesperson of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, was not surprised with another signal shutdown, saying they were expecting it.
Reyes said a signal shutdown would not have much effect at the Basilica since their security personnel are using handheld radios.
“We have a system for that,” he said.
At PRO-7, Quenery said the cellphone signal interruption would just be for the duration of the Sinulog Grand Parade, or from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
He however said it would not cover the entire province of Cebu, unlike last year when the signal interruption even affected the neighboring provinces of Bohol and Negros Oriental.
“This is not a total shutdown. The telecommunication networks can block the signal within the hot spots or the areas where we are concentrated,” he said.
Prior to the NTC approval on signal interruption, Quenery said they had a contingency plan in place especially on how the police units would communicate with each other.
“We already have a back up plan. We are 100 percent ready (for today’s celebration),” Quenery said.
Senior Supt. Julian Entoma, Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) officer-in-charge, said they have sufficient two-way, handheld radios which will be distributed to task units, commanders and selected policemen for efficient communication. /With REPORTS FROM SENIOR REPORTER ADOR VINCENT MAYOL