MANILA, Philippines - Police forces nationwide were placed on full alert status effective Wednesday afternoon as part of the security measures in anticipation of exodus of tens of thousands of people to the provinces for the long Lenten break.
Director General Nicanor Bartolome, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said he has already ordered his commanders down to the municipal station level to start implementing their respective security measures.
"All unit commanders are reminded to secure all PNP camps and offices, vital installations, economic key points, and places of convergence of people," said Bartolome in his memorandum.
The full alert status, equivalent to red alert in the military that requires 100 percent duty of all its 140,000 personnel, took effect at 5 p.m. Wednesday. It is the highest security alert of the PNP.
Bartolome particularly ordered his men to prioritize national highways, bus terminals, ports, and airports where a large number of people are expected to converge starting as early as Friday.
As such, he said he had already instructed his men to set up Police Assistance Centers along national highways which will be manned not only by policemen but medical personnel, among them are the Maharlika Highway from North to South Luzon, the Manila South Road from Manila to Bicol, the Manila East Road from Eastern Metro Manila to Northern Quezon, the Strong Republic Nautical Highway that passes through island provinces in Visayas and Mindanao, and other major thoroughfares.
Police Assistance Centers will serve as quick-reaction points for police emergency and medical response, and advance command post for traffic management and road security operations.
All PACs are linked with Patrol 117 nationwide emergency telephone hotline, and the TXT PNP 2920 SMS hotline.
In coastal resort areas, the Maritime Group and local PNP units were tasked to conduct seaborne patrols and other police security functions to assist in enforcing maritime laws and local ordinances that impose safety regulations in the operation of inter-island vessels and motorized boats that ferry passengers across bodies of water.
In Metro Manila, Oplan Bantay-Lakbay will be spearheaded by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) in coordination with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and local government units.
Police stations Metro Manila and other urban centers are tasked to conduct preventive patrols and neighborhood watch to guard against criminal elements that may take advantage of unattended residences.
All commercial business establishments, shopping malls, places of worship, MRT and LRT, and other vital installations will be placed under intensive security coverage.
National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Allan Purisima directed all Metro Manila district directors, chiefs of police, and operational support unit commanders to beef up their security operations and public safety plan to ensure a secured, safety, and orderly observance of the Holy Week.
In the Southern Police District (SPD), Supt. Jenny Tecson, spokeswoman and concurrent chief of the Public Information Office, disclosed that Senior Supt. Arrazad P. Subong, officer-in-charge, directed all police stations under the district to intensify its police visibility.
NLEx, SCTEx Express Lanes
As this developed, The North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) will implement an express payment program called the "Holy Week Express Lane."
The program is intended for Class 1 vehicles traveling to the North this Holy Week. Class 1 vehicles include cars, vans and jeepneys. The program will start at 2 p.m. of April 4 (Holy Wednesday) and will end at 5 p.m. of April 5 (Maundy Thursday). It seeks to shorten transaction time in busy plazas like Dau-Mabalacat in Pampanga, Subic-Tipo and the Tarlac exits in SCTEx.
Under this program a Class 1 motorist exiting Dau and Subic-Tipo or Tarlac via SCTEx may already pay his/her toll fees in full as he/she passes the Balintawak or Mindanao Avenue Toll Plazas. Motorists exiting Dau will pay a total toll fee amounting to R218 while motorists exiting Subic via SCTEx will pay R408 and motorists exiting Tarlac via SCTEx will pay R322. This program aims to alleviate queuing at the Toll Plazas especially during peak hours of the Holy Week exodus. Designated Express Lanes are located at the left side of the Toll Plazas. Motorists intending to use the Express Lanes should keep left as they approach the toll plazas for their entry and exit.
To speed up transactions at the NLEx, ambulant tellers will be deployed and spare lanes will be opened at the Balintawak, Mindanao Avenue and Dau Toll Plazas during peak hours. At SCTEx, manual lanes will be set up at Tarlac and Tipo Exits. The deployment of ambulant tellers may be expected on the afternoon of April 4 (Holy Wednesday) till the afternoon of April 5 (Maundy Thursday). Deployment is also set on April 7 (Black Saturday) until April 9 (Araw ng Kagitingan) at the Southbound Bocaue, Dau and Mabalacat Toll Plazas. (With reports from Jean Fernando, Francis T. Wakefield, and John Carlo M. Cahinhinan)