By Doris Mae C. Mondragon, Nestle L. Semilla, Victor Anthony V. Silva |November 13,2017 - 10:38 PM


Osmeña may ask NTC to turn off CP signal during Sinulog festivities next year as part of security measures

Be ready to shift back to basics again.

Cellular phone signals may shut down again for the second year in a row to secure thousands of devotees who are expected to attend the religious and cultural activities in honor of the Sto. Niño de Cebu on January 20–21, 2018.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña on Monday raised the possibility of asking the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to shut down cellular phone signals during the Sinulog festivities next year as part of the security preparation for Cebu’s grandest and biggest celebration.

“All we can do is tell the people to be prepared to survive without the cell phone,” said Osmeña in a press conference.

He said the plan will be part of the security measures to avert possible terrorist attacks.

“A major consideration is the possibility of a detonation of a bomb because there is no way we can examine what everybody is bringing into the parade. I think the stampede will bring more damage than the bomb itself,” the mayor said.

“Mao na akong kahadlokan (That is what I’m afraid of). 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 gyud sila (to get even),” he added.

The mayor was referring to the terror group Maute–Islamic State that was defeated following a five-month gun battle with government troops in Marawi City.

Last year, cell phone signals were shut down by NTC in some portions of the cities of Mandaue and Cebu 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.

The same measure was implemented in Cebu City during the Sinulog Grand Parade.

People resorted to using landlines to make calls and land-based internet connection to open their Facebook accounts and emails. Others used mobile applications that allowed smartphones to chat without using an internet connection.

But Supt. Artemio Ricabo, deputy chief director for administration of the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO), doesn’t agree with the mayor.

“In my own analysis, it is not advisable (to have signal jammers or interruptions). Sa among security (of this year’s Sinulog) nagkaproblema g’yud mi ato sa adjustment sa deployment sa atong mga personnel (Last year, we had problems in the deployment of our personnel since the communication signals were disrupted),” Ricabo said.

Ricabo said the CCPO only had a limited number of handheld radios.

“Not all our personnel have handheld radios. If we are going to deploy by land, we need to use the vehicle. However, you will be trapped since you cannot move because the roads are congested. It’s really a problem if there is no communication,” he said.

Last Saturday, Osmeña also made public his plan to ban alcoholic beverages and street parties near and along the routes of the solemn procession and the grand parade.

The mayor drafted an 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.

The document stated that concerts, shows, performances, gigs, recitals, events, street parties, as well as putting up loudspeakers and other sound devices would 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 peak of the 10-day festivities.
The maps of both routes have yet to be announced by the festival organizers; but it usually 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.”

Some local businessmen were amenable to the plan but pointed out the need to sit down with the mayor and talk about the executive order.

Teodoro Locson Jr., Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) vice president for external affairs, said City Hall should meet with the owners of affected establishments as early as possible to allow them to prepare for the implementation of these policies.

“Personally, I am inclined to support the city government’s proposed liquor ban during next year’s Sinulog. Experiences in previous years have shown how unruly intoxicated individuals and groups created chaos and traffic in business establishments,” he told Cebu Daily News in a text message.

In previous years, thousands of partygoers flooded the streets from early afternoon on Sunday to dawn the following day. Most parties were held along Gen. Maxilom Avenue and Juana Osmeña St. where some drunken youths had become unruly and triggered commotions. Others passed out on the streets.

Locson said that while the proposed policy was a welcome initiative to ensure an orderly celebration, city officials should meet with the owners of the affected establishments to make them understand the initiative and help them cope with the losses that are expected to be incurred with the liquor ban.

Marshall’s Irish Pub has been in the same location for five years — right along the parade route on Gen. Maxilom Avenue.

But Executive Chef Larry Marshall thinks banning drinking on the streets is a good idea.

He, however, doesn’t believe that City Hall has jurisdiction over what they do inside their own four walls unless the government decides to pass a new law.“

An orderly Sinulog is a great idea. But the issues I see every year are due to street drinking, tables outside, customers throwing bottles.

Those actions do not come from our pub,” he said.

Marshall added that they are very strict with their customers and that they don’t allow them to drink outside.

If they see their customers getting drunk, they stop serving them, he said.

He said he didn’t see any issues with what Mayor Osmeña did last year with businesses making too much noise, which was to take away their business permits.

However, he said businesses like his pub that observe guidelines to the letter should not be penalized because “others can’t do a good job” of being as strict.

Edilberto Mendoza, past president of the Cebu Association of Tour Operations Specialists (Catos), also favored the proposed measures for Sinulog because the aim was to maintain peace and order along the parade route.

He also added that the proposed measures would not affect the number of tourists coming to Cebu City for Sinulog.

“They come here to pay homage to Sto. Niño and not to party or drink liquor,” he said.

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