President Benigno Aquino 3rd has formed a national organizing committee to ensure the smooth and orderly visit of Pope Francis to the country from January 15 to 19 next year.
In Memorandum Circular 72, Aquino directed the committee, to be led by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., to coordinate with local Roman Catholic Church leaders and the private sector in preparing for the papal visit.
“As instructed by President Aquino, all heads of the different government departments, local governments as well as the private sector are encouraged to participate and coordinate all efforts to make sure that the visit of His Holiness [to]our country next year will be well organized and peaceful,” Ochoa said in a statement on Friday.
Other members of the committee for the Pope’s visit are Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson and Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya.
Also included in the panel are Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairperson Francis Tolentino.
According to Ochoa, the committee will also supervise peace and order preparations and the crafting of a traffic management plan for Pope Francis’ visit.
The Presidential Security Group (PSG) will secure the pontiff during his Philippine visit. Assisting the PSG are the PNP and a battalion of soldiers who earlier served as peacekeepers in Golan Heights.
Aquino’s memorandum also ordered the creation of two local executive committees in Manila and Leyte—two areas which the Pope will visit—to be led by Ochoa’s undersecretaries.
The executive committee in Manila will have as members undersecretaries of the Departments of Foreign Affairs, National Defense, Interior and Local Government , Public Works and Highways, Health, Transportation and Communications, Tourism and Presidential Communications Operations Office; chief of the Presidential Protocol Office; representatives from the Office of the President, the Armed Forces, PNP and MMDA; the general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority; commander of the PSG and the head of Radio-Television Malacañang.
The executive committee in Leyte will have as members the regional director of the PNP, commander of the AFP Central Command, regional directors of the Transportation and Public Works departments, PSG Security Task Action Group commander-Leyte and a representative from Radio-Television-Malacañang.