SouthCot under heightened alert for T’nalak Festival

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 July) — Police authorities placed the entire South Cotabato province under heightened alert on Thursday in preparation for the opening of the province’s week-long T’nalak Festival and 47th foundation anniversary celebration.

Supt. James Gulmatico, South Cotabato deputy provincial police director, said they have assigned a total of 232 uniformed police personnel to secure various venues of this year’s festivity, which will be centered in Koronadal City.

“So far, we have not received any threat in connection with the T’nalak Festival but our intelligence monitoring and security operations are ongoing to ensure the area’s security during the period,” Gulmatico said.

He said the deployment does not include the non-uniformed or policemen and intelligence operatives in civilian clothes that will augment the security operations.

“We have set in place a security plan covering all festival activities and possible scenarios that might arise,” he said in a press conference.

The priority areas and establishments for the deployment are the shopping malls, South Cotabato Sports Complex, provincial gymnasium and cultural center, provincial capitol grounds and the Productivity and Technology Center.

Gulmatico said they assigned police teams to secure the four entry and exit points of Koronadal City, which is a component city and provincial capital of South Cotabato.

He said the Police Regional Office 12 is also sending teams from the regional police’s public safety battalion to augment the area’s security.

Lt. Col. Shalimar Imperial, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, said they are augmenting a company size of troops to help secure the area during the festivities.

He said the augmentation troops will comprise a mix of regular Army personnel and members of the Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit.

T’nalak Festival 2013, which is slated July 11 to 18, will formally open Thursday afternoon with an interfaith thanksgiving celebration, agri fair and bahay kubo showcase opening, band and beer fest and a torch parade.

A thematic parade will be staged on Friday along with the opening of the South Cotabato Regional Industrial, Technology and Trade Expo.

The other activities are the motocross; fun run; cheer dance competition; national dog show competition; pop music solo voice competition; Mutya ng South Cotabato; and, the hiphop and team ballroom competition.

During the culmination day on July 18, which coincides with the province’s 47th foundation anniversary, a T’nalak festival parade and a street dancing showdown will be held in Koronadal City.

The showdown along the main streets of Koronadal City will feature the Madal be’lan, Kadsagayan a Lalan, and Kasadyahan sa Kapatagan competitions, he said.

Boardmember Vicente de Jesus, chair of the festival’s executive committee, said the lined up activities and showcases will mainly highlight the province’s unique culture and resources.

This year’s festival focuses on the theme: “Uniquely South Cotabato.” (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)