President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd has instructed concerned government agencies to ensure public safety and comfort in view of the annual exodus of people who will spend Holy Week in the provinces, his spokesman in Malacañang said over the weekend.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the President wants authorities to ensure order in major bus terminals, seaports and airports.
“The President specifically directed the agencies to immediately attend to the needs of the public by setting up public assistance desks in all public transport terminals where thousands are expected this week,” he said in Filipino.
The President specifically instructed the Toll Regulatory Board to ensure that motorists pass the major expressways with ease and to prevent long queues of vehicles at the toll gates. He also wants the Department of Transportation of Communications (DOTC) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to make sure that there are enough buses to avoid overloading, and that only legitimate buses ply their intended routes, Coloma said.
The DOTC, Coast Guard and airport authorities must ensure that piers and airports are orderly, that safety devices are in place, and that public assistance centers or desks are available to help passengers, Coloma said.
The President further directed the DOTC and the Coast Guard to see to it that only passengers listed in the manifest of ships could board, and that all ships servicing different destinations must be seaworthy.
Coloma further said that the Department of Public Works and Highways must make certain that roads are passable and in good condition, and that repairs must be completed to avoid traffic congestion.
Public assistance centers should be set up in strategic locations to help motorists encountering problems, and the police must carry out measures to maintain peace and order, he said.
He noted that the President instructed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be on alert to immediately respond to any emergency, such as accidents, fires, and crimes; and the Metro Manila police to intensify Oplan Lambat Sibat to prevent crimes.
Moreover, the President ordered health authorities and personnel to be ready to respond to road accidents, illnesses that arise during summer, and other emergencies.
The President also wants the Department of Energy to ensure a steady supply of electricity during the Holy Week.
President Aquino is advising the public to exercise extra caution while on the road, follow traffic rules and guidelines, control their temper, bring first-aid kits and medicines, and secure their homes before leaving, Coloma said.
Leaders of the local Catholic church meanwhile called on the faithful to reflect, meditate and pray for enlightenment during the observance of the Holy Week.
Palm Sunday is the day when Jesus Christ entered Jerusalem on a donkey before he was crucified by Roman soldiers on orders of Pontius Pilate..
As written in the Gospel of St. John (Chapter 12, verses 13-14), it was called Palm Sunday because believers were all waving palm leaves when Jesus entered Jerusalem.
St. John says: “Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord, And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon…”
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Saturday said that the Holy Week is the most opportune time for all Christians to atone for their sins through penitence and ask for forgiveness from the Lord.
“Let us open our eyes and hearts. Let us do something to lessen the impact of calamities. Let us change our lifestyles so catastrophes caused by humans will no longer wreak havoc in the future.”
Tagle encouraged the faithful to make use of the “Penitential Walk: Deliverance from Calamities and for Peace” to ask for forgiveness from the Lord and make a difference by helping underprivileged people, not only those crippled by the onslaught of typhoons and other calamities, but also those oppressed by corruption, injustice, absence of truth, loss of concern for others, of selfishness, and insensitivity.
The seven-kilometer Penitential Walk will be held on Good Friday. It will start at San Juan de Dios Hospital in Pasay City, and end at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila.