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16,000 volunteers to form human barricade for Pope in Manila

Around 16,000 volunteers composed of Manila barangay police officers and parishioners will form a human barricade to secure Pope Francis while he is in the capital, a city official said Sunday.

The volunteers consist of 11,000 barangay officials, including barangay tanod, and 5,000 parishioners from different Manila churches.

This figure does not include the 5,000 students from the University of Santo Tomas who have also volunteered to be part of a "human barricade" when the Pope visits the school on January 18, Sunday.

However, only about 500 individuals of the expected 5,000 parishioners have confirmed as volunteers, Kagawad Ronald Lee of Barangay 699 in Malate said.

The Pope will arrive in Manila on January 15. He will travel to Leyte on January 17, return to Manila on the same day, and fly back to Rome on the 19th.

See the Pope's complete itinerary from January 15 to 19.

Volunteer uniforms

In a phone interview on Sunday, Manila city administrator Ericson "Jojo" Alcovendaz revealed that the volunteers will be assigned on specific days to specific locations only, but that they will be all be summoned to be on hand during the pope's open-vehicle parade in different parts of Manila.

"Importante kasi na hindi pulis ang nasa unahan para 'pag nagkaroon ng rush ang mga tao, ordinaryong tao rin tulad ng mga tanod ang pipigil at hindi agad pulis kamukha sa mga rally,"  Alcovendaz said.

Still, he worries that the volunteers may be overwhelmed to see the Pope and join the crowd.

The volunteers will be wearing a designated uniform for easy identification against the audience.

The Manila city administrator added that additional closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras have been mounted in Luneta, on Taft Avenue, and on the premises of University of Santo Tomas for additional security monitoring.

Not just security

The local officials will also aid in emergency situations, with barangays' emergency response teams, fire trucks and ambulances on standby during the Pope's public appearances, said Barangay 699 chairman Edwin Chan.

"Maganda na naka-deploy sila kasi sila ang mga nakakakilala sa tao nila," he said. 

"Matagal na kami rito kaya kilala namin 'yung bagong salta. Inoobserbahan din namin ang mga 'yan kasi hindi namin alam kung bisita o threat."

"Kahihiyan ng Pilipinas ang nakasalalay dito. We are doing our best na maging maayos at peaceful," he added.

Coordination between local and national government

Manila mayor Joseph "Erap" Estrada on Thursday said that the local and national governments' preparations have been "well-coordinated."

Romerico Bueno, Barangay 701 barangay police executive officer, concurred with Estrada.

"Araw-araw po may nagpupunta mula sa Camp Aguinaldo at Camp Crame para sa preparation," he said.

Estrada added that the local government will be focused on peace and order.

"I hope and pray that the Pope's visit will be a success," he said.

The former President said that the 37,000 policemen and military officials who will be deployed for the papal visit is "more than enough" to secure the Pope.

Preps before the visit

Bueno also said that 701's residents have been cleaning their barangay, which includes some parts of Adriatico St., Quirino Boulevard, and Roxas Boulevard.

"'Yung preparasyon na ginagawa ngayon, naglilinis po kami ng area na lahat na madadaanan ng Santo Papa, tapos 'yung mga mababahong lugar nag-flushing po ang fire truck namin," he told GMA News Online.

Flushing is a way to clean areas with a pressurized fire hose.

Bueno added that the government also cleared the areas of street scavengers, dwellers, and vendors some two weeks ago.

All construction around Manila area have also been halted for the Papal visit, he said.

"Ready na po ang mga dump trucks and street sweepers namin sa pagpapanatili ng luga na malinis," he added.

He explained that dump trucks are deployed in different areas so that the trash left by the public could be easily transported to dump sites. — BM, GMA News