• Cebu prelate ready in case Pope’s plane is diverted to Mactan airport
• Aglipayan, United Methodist churches in Bataan admire Pope Francis
• Bacolod faithful to welcome Pope with tolling of bells, fireworks display
• Church in Palo, Leyte readies one million ponchos
Tropical storm Amang has maintained its strength at 65 kilometers per hour as it moved toward Catarman, Northern Samar. However, is not expected to make landfall according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
The storm were packing winds of up to 80 kph and was forecast to be 230 km east of Virac, Catanduanes on Saturday, the day that Pope Francis visits Tacloban City in Eastern Visayas. Pagasa has not raised any storm warning signal but warned that it could bring heavy to intense rains within the 300-kilometer radius of the storm.
By Friday, the tropical storm is expected to be at 615 km East of Catarman, Northern Samar. It is also expected to be 230 km east of Virac, Catan-duanes on Saturday and 180 km east of Casiguran, Aurora by Sunday morning.
In Cebu, both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the prelates are ready for a Plan B in case the storm heads to Tacloban City. Under this plan, the Pope’s plane will seek shelter at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport for 30 minutes, or until it is safe for his plane to land in Tacloban.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said there is no word yet on whether the Pope’s plane will be diverted to the Mactan airport if weather conditions get worse but says that this should not be a problem.
“Cebu is a big city. The Pope has been to smaller cities, with less equipment, facilities and capabilities. There is no doubt that Cebu can accommodate him if there is any change in the schedule. We are ready if that happens,” Palma said.
Earlier, top transportation and defense officials inspected the Mactan airbase, which is at the far-end of the international airport, to devise a plan.
Central Visayas Police Director Prudencio Tom Bañas the rerouting is “farfetched” but if it happens, both the police and the Armed Forces are ready with the contingency plan.
“It’s easy to secure the Pope. We have plans for that. We will adjust our schedules accordingly. We have the Armed Forces with us also,” Banas said.
The military and the police, Bañas said, will secure the perimeter of the Mactan airbase for as long as the Papal plane is taking shelter.
In Leyte, the Archdiocese of Palo will start today the distribution of transparent raincoats to pilgrims in preparation for the forecasted rains on Saturday.
Fr. Amadeo Alvero, the archdiocese social communications director, said they will deliver the raincoats to parishes or the holding areas to ensure that pilgrims will have their own protection against rain during the mass.
Pilgrims are not allowed to use umbrellas during the mass; instead they are advised to use transparent raincoats for security reasons.
In Bataan, both the officials of the Iglesia Filipina Indepen-diente (IFI) and the United Methodist Church on Thursday welcomed Pope Francis and expressed their admiration for the Catholic pontiff.
Reverend Father Jurene Dajotoy, IFI parish priest of the Immaculate Concepcion parish in Balanga City, said he admired Pope Francis for establishing relations with other faith and churches.
Reverend Allen Alvaro, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Tortugas, Balanga City, thinks of Pope Francis as the real People’s Pope describing him as “different” because of the latter’s love of the masses and humility. He cited the episode where the Pope washed the feet of a woman and a Muslim.
“He is not after Papal prestige but of making sure that he responds to the needs of the people,” Alvaro said.
In Bacolod City, Catholics are welcoming the Pope with the tolling of bells and a fireworks display on the grounds of the San Sebastian Cathedral. Colorful ribbons and tarpaulins of the Pope also adorn the church grounds.
The tolling of bells in all Catholic churches in the country marks the arrival of Pope Francis at the Villamor Airbase in Manila.
“Let us welcome him with open hearts in the spirit of love,” said Fr. Felix Pasquin, rector of the San Sebastian Cathedral.
Negros Occidental Vice Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said the visit of Pope Francis to the country should not only be for Catholics but for all religions.
“It’s not about the Pope, it’s about the Lord Jesus Christ,” Lacson said.
He said the Pope’s visit to the country could further enrich the Filipinos’ faith in God.