THE Philippine National Police (PNP) will provide round-the-clock security for Pope Francis during his stay in the country in January.
PNP’s Public Information Officer, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, said on Saturday the security preparations for the pontiff are being worked out by a committee made up of 18 state agencies, including the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Presidential Security Group (PSG).
Mayor said Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak, a military bishop, will head the Committee on Security and Public Order.
Pope Francis is arriving in Manila on January 15 and will stay for five days.
The committee has started meeting on how to secure the Pope on a 24/7 basis, Mayor said.
Earlier, the PNP formed Joint Task Force (JTF) Papal Visit 2015 led by Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the PNP Deputy Chief for Operations.
Under the JTF are two task groups that will separately focus on the security of the Pope while he is in Manila and Leyte.
“We have laid out venue- and activity-specific security preparations,” Mayor said.
On the part of the AFP, Lt Colonel Harold Cabunoc said two battalions will help the police secure the Pope.
Cabunoc said Filipino peacekeepers from the Golan Heights and Haiti are being trained for security duty during the papal visit.
Fr. Jimmy Marquez, executive secretary of the Papal Visit Committee on Accommodations, said Church officials will ensure that the Pope will be billeted in a safe place.
Marquez refused to disclose the exact location where the Pope will stay for security reasons.
The government is considering declaring a holiday during the papal visit.
Marciano Paynor Jr., a former ambassador to Israel, said that such a decision is likely to be approved, noting a holiday was declared when Pope John Paul 2nd was in the Philippines in 1995.
An article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website said a holiday declaration “aims to avoid the build up of heavy traffic” that might affect businesses and jobs.
It added that a non-working period will enable devotees to attend the papal activities in Manila and in Leyte.
Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada earlier announced a five-day, non-working holiday in the city for Francis’ visit.
When he arrives at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City on January 15, the Pope will be welcomed by 1,200 youths who will give him flowers.
Among the Church officials who will welcome the Pope at Villamor are Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and CBCP President Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd and government dignitaries will join the Church officials in welcoming the pope.
Francis will be in Malacañang on January 16. The next day he will fly to Tacloban City, where he will celebrate Mass near the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport.
In the afternoon of the same day, the pontiff will dine with families and individuals who survived the Yolanda typhoon and the earthquake in Bohol.
On January 18, the Pope will meet with 10 religious leaders at the University of Santo Tomas campus in Manila.
He will leave January 19.