NTC oks signal shutdown for Sinulog; Rama says no

CUTTING off mobile network services during the celebration of the Sinulog Festival is “primitive” and will only bring inconvenience to the public.

This was the reaction of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama after the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) issued a memorandum ordering telecommunication companies (telcos) to suspend telecommunication services on specified hours on Jan. 14 and 15.

The NTC’s memorandum dated Jan. 6 was released in response to the request of Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Brigadier General Jerry Bearis to implement the signal shutdown as a security measure.

But Rama is not in favor of the signal shutdown since communication is very important for a big event like the Sinulog Festival.

“I have been making a statement before, let us not get into Jurassic (period) like we are being primitive. Communication is very important. Disconnection should always be frowned upon, so let us not think about jamming,” said Rama Tuesday, Jan. 10.

Under the memo, the signal shutdown will be from 4 to 10 a.m. on Jan. 14 for the seaborne procession, and this will cover the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

During the solemn procession on Jan. 14, the suspension of services will be from 12 noon to 8 p.m. and this will be implemented in the downtown and uptown areas of Cebu City.

Meanwhile, the signal shutdown during the Sinulog Grand Parade on Jan. 15 will be from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the South Road Properties and the downtown area of Cebu City.

Rama said there is no need for him to issue an announcement since he had already repeatedly said before that no signal shutdown should be implemented during the activities of the 458th Fiesta Señor and the Sinulog Grand Parade.

The mayor believes that communication during the Sinulog is vital since people would have a hard time locating their companions, especially with the expected huge size of the crowd.

The mayor said he should not be the one to appeal to the NTC to reverse its decision on the signal shutdown.

There is also no need to have a meeting with the Philippine National Police about the issue since Bearis already said the PRO 7 would follow the decision of the local government unit on the signal shutdown, said Rama.

Mayor’s call

Earlier in the day, Bearis had said the final decision on whether a signal shutdown would be implemented on Jan. 14 and 15 lay with Mayor Rama.

“We will abide by whatever the recommendation of the honorable mayor is, so that we can have a very nice celebration for this Sinulog festival,” Bearis said.

Bearis said security preparations had already been well planned for the Sto. Niño procession on Saturday and the Sinulog Grand Parade on Sunday.

Globe and Smart have acknowledged receiving the NTC memo.

Rofil Magto, corporate communications manager of Globe for the Visayas and Mindanao, told SunStar Tuesday, “Yes, we have officially received the memo from NTC and are preparing to implement as mandated.”

Smart has also received the memo, said Marylou Gocotano, head of Visayas relations-stakeholder management at PLDT and Smart.

At the NTC 7, officials said they would wait for the results of the final discussion between the PRO 7 and Cebu City Government on the signal shutdown for Sinulog 2023.

Felipe Gumalo Jr., officer-in-charge of the NTC 7’s Enforcement and Operation Division, said their task is to mandate telcos to implement the signal shutdown.

“It’s up to them because, for us, we only order the telcos to pursue to push through or cancel if there is already an approval. We already have a mandate from the central office to inform the telcos regarding it, but we would wait for the ‘go signal’ of the PRO 7 and the LGU (local government unit),” he said.

NTC 7 Director Sophia Lynn Lumantod said Tuesday the PRO 7 could write back to the NTC Central Office in Diliman, Quezon City, if it wants to cancel the request.

The PRO 7 sent its request for the signal shutdown to the NTC Central Office.

Lumantod said the revocation of the signal shutdown request depends on the PRO 7.

A signal shutdown was implemented to secure major Sinulog-related activities from 2017 to 2020, the last physical staging of the Sinulog before the Covid-19 pandemic forced a two-year hiatus on the physical celebration of Cebu’s biggest festival.

The signal shutdown started in 2017 following bombing incidents in Mindanao where police said bombs were detonated remotely through the use of mobile phones.

Mayor Rama said there will be a coordination meeting with the Sinulog executive committee and other working groups on Wednesday, Jan. 11, to discuss various concerns about the festival like the venue and availability of public transport.

Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia on Monday had said the Sinulog grand parade and ritual showdown on Sunday should be held at the usual venue, which is the Cebu City Sports Center, instead of the South Road Properties (SRP) because of traffic problems that would arise from closing off the SRP and issues on securing the wide open space at the SRP. (IRT, AYB, TPT, HIC, LMY)