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By: Morexette Marie B. Erram November 11,2017 - 11:03 PM

EXTREME partying habits like in this photo will be a thing of the past if Mayor Tomas Osmeña will make good on his promise to ban parties and the sale of liquors near the parade route in next year’s Sinulog Festival. In this file photo, taken after the Sinulog parade on January 15, 2017, a crowd of drunken revelers, among them minors, shouted and danced on the street and stomped and banged on vehicles passing at Juana Osmeña and Aboitiz Streets. The police had to be called to disperse the unruly crowd.

With only three months shy of the Sinulog Festival 2018, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is now preparing to formalize policies that will ban alcoholic beverages and street parties anywhere near the festival’s procession and parade routes.

Posted on his official Facebook page yesterday, Osmeña showed a copy of the first draft of his executive order (EO).

Tentatively titled “An Order Regulating Business Establishments and Vendors During Sinulog Festival 2018,” the EO aims to avoid a repeat of the previous year’s alcohol-soaked parties and people sleeping off a hangover on the streets.

The document stated that concerts, shows, performances, gigs, recitals, events, street parties, as well as putting up loudspeakers and other sound devices will not be allowed within a 300-meter radius of the Sinulog parade and procession routes from January 19 (Friday) to January 21 (Sunday).

It also plans to implement a liquor ban from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on January 21, the date for the Sinulog grand parade, the mardi gras–like culminating event of the weeklong festival.

The Sinulog Festival, while rooted in the Catholic feast held every third Sunday of January to honor the Señor Sto. Niño that has been drawing thousands of pilgrims and devotees to Cebu, has taken on a different dimension during the final day, when hundreds of thousands of residents and local and foreign tourists flock to the streets of Cebu City to witness and be part of the colorful grand parade composed of dancing contingents, floats and giant fictional characters or product mascots.

“The selling and drinking of intoxication (sic) liquor is prohibited within a 300-meters (sic) radius of the Sinulog Parade route during the Sinulog Mardi Gras, January 21, 2018 (Sunday) from 6:00 A.M to 10:00 P.M.,” said the draft document.

The maps of both routes are yet to be announced by the festival organizers. But usually, it covers P. del Rosario Street, Imus Avenue, General Maxilom Avenue and Osmeña Boulevard.

Osmeña said the policy is intended “to ensure peace and order, preserve the sanctity of the celebration, and to promote the convenience of the people.”

Plus liquor ban

Except for adding a liquor ban, the proposed EO is similar to the No-Street-Party resolution the Cebu City Council passed last January to prohibit establishments and organizers to hold parties within 300 meters from the routes of the Sinulog procession and parade.

The City Council’s resolution was adopted amid a directive from Osmeña for the city government to closely regulate street parties during Sinulog, which he earlier described as “rowdy.”

It directed the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO) to close down any establishments caught holding street parties during the hours of the Sinulog grand parade.

Any establishments and party organizers caught violating it had their business permits revoked and the applications of such denied.

One of the events shut down by the CCDRRMO during the last Sinulog Festival was a beatboxing gig at Mango Square along Gen. Maxilom Ave., which was within the procession and grand parade routes.

The party’s organizers, as well as the owners of the venue where it was held, had been denied the permit to further operate in the area when the boozed-up crowd got out of control.

But the No-Street-Party resolution was ordered only on January 11, 2017, or four days before the scheduled date of the Sinulog 2017 grand parade.

With the issuance of an EO, regulating business establishments by implementing a ban on entertainment events and the distribution or sale of liquor during Sinulog will no longer have to go through the Cebu City Council for approval.

Go to SRP

Cebu Daily News left a message on Osmeña’s mobile number asking whether or not the EO will also entail revocation of violators’ business permits, but there was no response as of press time.

However, the mayor planned to transfer business establishments and vendors selling alcoholic beverages and offering as venues for parties to the South Road Properties (SRP), which is approximately eight kilometers south of Fuente Osmeña Circle, one of the important landmarks of the procession and parade routes.

“Preparing the executive order for this coming Sinulog. NO alcohol or outdoor parties anywhere near the parade route. If you want to sell alcohol or organize a party, we will help you set up in the SRP where there are no residents to bother,” Osmeña said in his post.

He also announced the possibility of extending the duration of liquor ban in a follow-up comment on his post.

“This is just a first draft. Ban on intoxicating liquor will most likely be from 6AM, Sunday to 6AM the next day (Monday),” added Osmeña.

In a text message sent to Cebu Daily News, Ricky Ballesteros, executive director of Sinulog Foundation Inc. (SFI), which organizes the annual Sinulog Festival, backed the mayor’s plans to formalize the policies.

“It’s the best way of protecting the safety of the performers and spectators as well, especially most of the performers are children and minors. Parties must be away from the parade route, so they can execute street dance performance well on the streets,” Ballesteros said.

He also agreed that the SRP is an ideal location to accommodate parties and other events not directly in line with the SFI’s lineup of activities for Sinulog 2018.

“SRP is the ideal place for parties. (It has the) luxury of space, ample parking areas, and away from the parade route. (Given its distance), it will not distract the flow of the parade,” added Ballesteros.

Decongest streets

On the other hand, CCDRRMO chief Nagiel Bañacia, sought for comment yesterday, backed Osmeña’s EO, saying it will not only formalize the prohibition on street parties and drinking sprees near the Sinulog procession and parade routes but will also serve as means to spread out the crowd and relieve congestion along the parade routes.

“It’s also one way of decongesting the crowd during the Sinulog Festival by dispersing them. Instead of having them to flock in one particular area, it’s better to control them if they are dispersed,” said Bañacia.

By bringing the parties to SRP, law enforcers, rescue teams and concerned barangay officials assigned in SRP can closely monitor the crowd, he added.

Gargenera’s take

Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera, in a separate text message, told CDN that he would back the EO’s aim to ban drinking sprees and street parties during the hours of the grand parade.

But he said that it should not completely douse the excitement of people who want to party after the grand parade.

“I agree with the Sinulog route nga walay (there should be no) drinking and parties during the hours of the Mardi Gras. Dili lang palabi ug (But we shouldn’t be too much of a) killjoy. He must also provide space for partygoers, who have no intention to hurt or harm anyone, (and only want) to enjoy the festival through merriment such as parties,” said Garganera.

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