Cellphone signals blocked in Cebu amid Sinulog terror fears

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Telephone networks will block all cellular signals in Cebu during the Sinulog Festival today (Saturday, January 14) and tomorrow, the government has announced.

Sun, Globe, Smart and TNT are acting in accordance with a directive issued by the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

The temporary jamming of cellphone signals is intended to prevent the use of phones from detonating improvised explosive devices — a technique that was most recently used at the Hilongos bomb attack on December 28. (See our report here)

Although no specific security threats have been received related to the Sinulog festival, the pre-emptive measure, will focus on areas along the route of the procession of Santo Niño de Cebu and the Festival Grand Parade.

Cellular signals will be blocked in the following areas:

• Cebu City

• Lapu-Lapu
• Mandaue
• Consolacion
• Cordoba
• liloan
• Minglanilla

Land lines will remain active.

Cebu City will also be a “no-fly zone” for drones during the parade. Similar counter-measures were put in place during Manila’s feast of the in Manila this week.

City mayor Tomas Osmeña has apologised for the network shutdown, saying that it is an “inconvenience” that will help guarantee the safety of revellers.

“I’m very sorry for the inconvenience of the cell shutdown, but it is an inconvenience that can save lives. The Hilongos terror bombing in Leyte a few weeks ago involved two bombs, of which one failed to detonate. The detonator on the retrieved bomb was designed to be activated by cell. The bomb that exploded in Davao last September was also likely detonated by cell,” he explained.

He also said that police and medical personnel will be deployed all over the city, and easy to contact even without cell phones.

The mayor also appealed for festival-goers to assist security forces by reporting anything suspicious.

“Even with the additional personnel the military is sending, the police is still a force of thousands trying to protect a population of millions. They cannot be everywhere all the time,” he said.

“We need your help. If you spot anything suspicious, please report it immediately to the first policeman you find. It’s that simple. We’ll handle the rest.”

“Cebu hasn’t had a terror incident since the 90s, so let’s hope and pray that it stays that way. We are doing everything we can to make sure it does.”

For our complete and comprehensive calendar of Sinolog events, click here.