By UCA News
By John Francis Lagman
Manila City and Church officials announced Tuesday during a media briefing the creation of a task force to ensure security during next week’s Feast of the Black Nazarene celebration.
Task Group Nazareno comprises 1,600 personnel and 750 volunteers from the Manila Police District and local church and civic organizations.
The group aims to provide crowd control and traffic management for an estimated eight million celebrants along the route of the annual feast day procession scheduled for January 9.
“Police said the estimated number of devotees last year was 7.5 million. We’re expecting some 8 million this year,” said Father Ricardo Valencia Jr., parochial vicar of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.
The creation of the task force comes amid calls by Church officials to bolster security ahead of the feast day and confirmation from a military commander of the presence of five foreign operatives of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah in Sulu province in Mindanao.
Bishop Angelito Lampon of Jolo appealed to authorities to double their efforts following the military report.
“Our Christmas and New Year celebrations here so far went well. The churches are well guarded by the marines here in Jolo and we are thankful to them,” Bishop Lampon said.
“The public should remain vigilant at all times,” he added.