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Cebuanos turn to FireChat app amid telco shutdown for Sinulog

By: Ryan Macasero January 14,2017 - 11:01 AM



Amid a shutdown of telecommunication services in Cebu City for the Sinulog Festival, Cebuanos are turning to mobile app FireChat for communication.

The first shutdown began at 3 a.m. before the fluvial procession in Mandaue City that started at 6 a.m.

The shutdown was announced on January 12.

The Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO 7) requested cellular signal to be shut off amid concerns of a possible terrorist attack during the Sinulog festivities.

This year’s annual Sinulog Festival comes only weeks after a bomb in Hilongos, Leyte, injured 30 fiesta-goers. The bomb was exploded by still unknown bombers using the mobile service of a cellular phone as its trigger.

Cebuanos began posting on Facebook instructions on how to download the FireChat app days before the scheduled shutdown.

This app creates its own network with other FireChat users through bluetooth signals.

Although all Sinulog-related activities take place in Cebu City and Mandaue City, the cities of Talisay in the south and Lapu-Lapu on Mactan Island, as well as the towns of Consolacion and Liloan (north), Minglanilla (south) and Cordova (Mactan Island) are also affected by the shutdown.

FireChat is an open-source chat that allows users to communicate even without cellular signal, data or Internet with anyone within a 70 meter radius. An active public chat called #everyone started early Saturday morning, where FireChat users began chatting with each other.

Also set to take place today is the re-enactment of the first Mass in Cebu, which will happen at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña explained in a Facebook post that while people will be inconvenienced by the shut down, it’s an inconvenience “that can save lives.”

He said, “the bomb that exploded in Davao last September was also likely detonated by a cellular phone.”

The NTC asked the telecommunication companies Globe Telecom, Smart Philippines and Sun Cellular to restore signal at around 1 p.m., before shutting it off again at 3 p.m. in time for the foot procession this afternoon. The signal will again be shut down at 3 a.m. tomorrow, January 15, before the 9 a.m. Sinulog Grand Parade.

However, all the three telcos have decided to completely shut down their mobile services for two days, or from January 14 to 15.

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TAGS: 2017, Cebu, Cebuano, Cebuanos, cellphone, lapulapu, mandaue, signal, Sinulog Festival, Talisay

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