Cyclone could cancel Pope’s Leyte visit, says exec

By Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnew.com

MANILA – A member of the Papal Visit Executive Committee said bad weather may force the cancellation of Pope Francis’ visit to Leyte.

Ambassador Marciano Paynor, member of the Papal Visit Executive Committee, said the approaching cyclone east of the Visayas-Mindanao region has cast uncertainty on the pope’s January 17 visit to Yolanda-ravaged Tacloban.

”Talagang hindi natin masasabi, pero siyempre ang pinaka (concern) nga is iyung weather ho,” Paynor told dzMM.

”Kung masyadong malakas ang ulan o hangin, hindi pwedeng mag-landing ang eroplano sa Tacloban. Iyun ang pwedeng makaapekto. Pero pinag-darasal natin na huwag mangyari iyon.”

The pope’s visit to the typhoon-stricken region is considered the most important part of his visit to the Philippines, which carries the theme ”Mercy and Compassion”.

The pope is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Tacloban airport, considered the ground zero for Yolanda, and have lunch with 30 survivors of the super typhoon and the destructive Bohol earthquake.

Cyclone

State weather bureau PAGASA said a tropical depression was spotted 1,610 kilometers east of Mindanao as of 4 a.m.

The tropical depression was packing maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers per hour and was moving west northwest at 19 kph.

PAGASA weather forecaster Jori Loiz told dzMM that the tropical depression will enter the Philippine area of responsibility between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, at which point it will be locally named ”Amang”.

Loiz said the cyclone might re-curve due to the high pressure area. He, however, said even if the cyclone re-curves, it’s trough or outer cloudbands will still bring rains over Visayas and Mindanao.

PAGASA said by Friday (January 16), Tacloban City will experience light rains as the tropical cyclone moves closer to the country.

By Saturday (January 17), light to moderate rains and moderate to strong winds will prevail over Tacloban and thunderstorms are likely to occur.

People surge

Meanwhile, Pasig Bishop Mylo Vergara, head of the media committee for the papal visit to the Philippines, said people who want to bring children to any of the papal events in the Philippines, especially in the pope’s mass in Luneta, should not be discouraged from doing so.

”Everyone should go. I think even some elderlies are excited to go there. There will be persons with disbailities who would be attending the mass, so why not?” he told ANC’s Headstart.

Citing the annual Feast of the Black Nazarene, Vergara noted the Philippines is no stranger to events that see a large number of people converging in one place.

”Ang poong nazareno happens every year. It is something that we look forward to. It is always asked of me, are you afraid of the people surge? Eh people surge na yung poong nazareno hindi ba? And things fall into place afterwards. We do the best in security, in management of the crowd,” he said.

Nearly 40,000 soldiers and police are being deployed to protect the pontiff during his five-day trip to the Philippines, a majority Catholic nation where attempts have been made to kill visiting popes twice before.

“For this year, this will be the greatest security nightmare that we can have,” Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang said as he readied his troops for the pontiff’s arrival.

Authorities have stated the huge crowds of devout Catholics are their main worry, with up to six million people expected for a mass in Manila on Sunday. – with Agence France-Presse

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