Immigration office tightens security for papal visit

MANILA — A special task force was created to ensure security and public order during the papal visit next month, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said Friday.

Commissioner Siegfred Mison said the task force, Task Unit Immigration (TU), shall implement operations of immigration services and intelligence for January 2014.

He said the Task Unit Immigration is created to ensure that the Pope and the members of his entourage receive proper immigration service, technical and intelligence support, in furtherance of the mandate of The Papal Visit 2015 National Organizing Committee (PV-NOC).

“We have started our general preparation phase as early as October. Our preparations include planning the event, service training for TU personnel, and survey inspection areas of engagement,” Mison said in a statement.

The BI chief also ensured that there are enough immigration personnel deployed in Manila and Tacloban for the event and that immigration agents will be on full force for the papal visit.

Pope Francis will visit the Philippines on January 15, 2015 and is expected to be traveling with members of his entourage and staff.

The Pope’s itinerary will include a visit to Tacloban City, a courtesy visit to President Benigno Aquino III, and a mass at Rizal Park.

Pope Francis will be in the country for four days and will depart for Rome on January 19.

Meanwhile, Mison warned that foreign terrorists and human traffickers might take advantage of the event.

“We must remain vigilant since we are expecting an influx of foreign visitors in the Philippines in January due to the papal visit,” he said.

Mison added, “The BI is in close coordination with other law enforcement agencies in intelligence building and has heightened its alert on foreign nationals with emphasis on potential threats to the scheduled arrival of the Pope.”

On the other hand, more than 2,000 Philippine and Vatican flags will be installed along roads in Metro Manila and Leyte where Pope Francis and his entourage are going to pass by.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said the installation of flags is to show that the country is welcoming the Holy Father.

“More or less 3,200. Iba-iba ang size. Halo na Philippine and Vatican flags…sa Tacloban 500 Philippine flag and 500 Vatican flag,” sources said.

Aside from flags, they will put up welcome signs in these areas.

At the same time, confirmed reports said that an inspection was conducted by the papal visit committee at the Quirino Grandstand, where the last Mass of the pontiff in the country will be held on January 18, a day before he returns to the Vatican.

“Nag ocular sila kahapon from Villamor ‘yun route ni pope. Roxas blvd to Quirino grandstand. Tinignan nila status ang Quirino grandstand, which is now 65 percent completed,” sources added.

Sources said that the remaining 35 percent is for painting jobs, lighting fixtures, setting up of portalets, among others. (PNA)

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Immigration office tightens security for papal visit
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