THE United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have told their nationals in Manila to take caution ahead of Monday’s Black Nazarene procession, which is expected to draw millions of barefoot devotees.
In a security message, the US Embassy cited road closures and massive pedestrian and vehicle traffic on Roxas Boulevard and adjacent major thoroughfares.
All mobile phone coverage will be jammed in areas along the route of the procession, and telecommunications disruptions are expected throughout Metro Manila, it added.
“Travel in the downtown Manila area [will be]difficult or impossible, as people assemble to participate in the event and during the event itself,” the embassy said on its website on Friday.
Manila City Hall has declared January 9 a holiday, with city offices and schools closed. The US Embassy on Roxas Boulevard will also be closed.
The British government, meanwhile, cited information from the Department of the Interior and Local Government on possible terror threats to the annual Catholic feast.
“You should take particular care in crowded places and follow the advice of the local authorities,” it said in an updated advisory on Saturday.
The Canadian Embassy cautioned its citizens planning to join the traslacion or the transfer of the centuries-old image of the Christ carrying the cross from Rizal Park to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo district.
“Although the event is normally peaceful, if you plan on attending, please exercise caution and expect heavy traffic in the area,” it said on Facebook.
On Monday, the procession of the black wooden statue will begin at Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, and proceed to the Minor Basilica, also known as Quiapo Church.
The 4.5 mile-procession usually lasts for 20 hours because of immense crowds jostling to touch the image or even the rope pulling it. Devotees start gathering in Rizal Park on Sunday.
The US also reminded its citizens of the existing Department of State “worldwide caution,” dated September 9, 2016, indicating an ongoing threat of terrorist actions and violence against American citizens and interests abroad, including the Philippines.
The UK maintained the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s advice against all travel to Western Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago because of ongoing terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups, and advised against all but essential travel to the rest of Mindanao and to the south of Cebu province, including the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian.
MICHAEL JOE T. DELIZO