GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 July) — Police authorities have tightened security in nearby Koronadal City and other parts of South Cotabato province in connection with the upcoming celebration of the 15th T’nalak Festival and the province’s 48th foundation anniversary.
Senior Supt. Jose Arnaldo Briones Jr., South Cotabato police director, said Monday they have placed all police units in the area under heightened alert in preparation for the expected influx of visitors or tourists during the festivities, which is slated July 10 to 18.
He said they have assigned around 500 police personnel to secure various festival venues and activities, which will be centered in Koronadal City, the province’s capital and component city.
“We’ve set in place a security plan for each of the lined up activities to properly manage our operations,” he said.
To augment their security operations Briones said the Police Regional Office 12 is deploying a company from the Regional Public Safety Battalion to the area for the entire festivities.
He said additional security personnel from the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (IB), Army reservists and Barangay Police Action Teams will also be deployed in the area.
Briones said they will establish assistance desks in each of the festival venues to ensure immediate response to security-related problems and other concerns that might come up during the festivities.
For his part, 27th IB commander Lt. Col. Zhalimar Imperial said that aside from securing the festival venues and activities, they will establish additional checkpoints in various entry and exit points of the province.
He said they have coordinated with intelligence units operating in the area to properly monitor any possible movement from groups that might be planning to sabotage the festivities.
Meantime, South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said its now “all systems go” for this year’s festivities, which focuses on the theme: “Sharing our Best to the World.”
She said the festivities will have a soft opening on July 8, with the launching of the T’nalak strip, a nightly street party along the Alunan Avenue in Koronadal City.
It will be followed by the opening of the week-long South Cotabato Regional Industrial, Technology and Trade Expo and Agri Fair on July 9 and an interfaith thanksgiving celebration, torch parade, opening of the “dream weaver” garden and food bazaar as well as the bahay kubo and South Cotabato display on July 10.
The official said the major highlights of the festival will commence on July 11 and conclude on July 18, which is the province’s foundation anniversary.
Fuentes said Senator Cynthia Villar will grace the opening of the festival on July 11 while keynote speaker for the anniversary on July 18 has yet to be confirmed.
The other activities are the thematic parade and the opening ceremonies on July 11 at the South Cotabato Sports Complex and the LGBT empowerment event at the South Cotabato Gym and Cultural Center and the inaugural run of the 42-kilometer international marathon in Tupi, annual T’nalak fun run in Koronadal City, basketball tour with Star Magic artists and motocross on July 12.
The province will stage a mountain bike challenge on July 13; cheerleading competition on July 14; the South Cotabato pop music solo competition on July 15; and, the Mutya ng South Cotabato 2014 on July 16.
A day before the foundation anniversary or on July 17, the province will stage the 2014 Mindanao hiphop competition and team ballroom competition.
On July 18, the festivities will be highlighted by the annual T’nalak Festival parade and the street dancing showdown. (MindaNews)