PREPARING FOR SINULOG. Avigael Ratcliffe (center), corporate communcations officer of GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp., emphasizes a point during the Association of Government Information Officers forum on Sinulog Festival preparations at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA-7) office in Cebu City on Tuesday (Jan. 7, 2020). Department of Tourism-7 chief of operations Gelena Asis-Dimpas (left) and Mactan Cebu International Airport information officer Mary Ann Dimayabao look on. (PNA photo by John Rey Saavedra)

CEBU CITY – Travel and tourism stakeholders here are now ready to receive the influx of local and foreign tourists who will be joining the celebration of the Sinulog Festival.

Avigael M. Ratcliffe, corporate communications officer of GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation, said they have projected an increase of around 15 percent in over-all passenger traffic from domestic and international flights in time for this year's religious celebration.

“For this year’s Sinulog, we are projecting 174,000 domestic passengers and 162,000 international passengers. So the total departure-arrival is projected at 336,000 during the Sinulog week,” she said during the Association of Government Information Officers forum at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA-7).

Last year, she said, the total passenger traffic reached 292,812, with at least 157,920 domestic passengers and 134,892 passengers from international flights.

Gelena Asis-Dimpas, chief of tourism operations of the Department of Tourism (DOT-7), said the agency is now converging all stakeholders involved in the preparation as the province is expecting a huge number of visitors flocking to this capital city to celebrate the fiesta of Sto. Niño de Cebu.

“Our welcome reception for the arriving guests at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) is ongoing. So we make available our welcome lei and we have assigned personnel to welcome our expected visitors,” Dimpas said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.

She said the preparation will be focused for the week-long celebration leading to the Sinulog Sunday on Jan. 19.

Tourism stakeholders are also expecting “balikbayans” to come home to Cebu during the Sinulog through the “Balik Cebu” program, she said.

Balik Cebu is a program of the city government, Cebu provincial government and tourism stakeholders, including the MCIA, that aims to answer the needs of returning Filipino expatriates who will come to Cebu to celebrate the Sinulog and pay homage to the Holy Child Jesus at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño.

Due to the current flu virus scare in China, Mactan-Cebu Airport Authority information officer Mary Ann Dimayabao said they have coordinated with the Bureau of Quarantine in coming up with precautionary measures for the arriving guests.

However, she said the Mactan airport has long had thermal scanners to detect arriving passengers who have high body temperature and those who will be suspected of having contracted such virus "will be processed".

Sheila Gumapon, a staff at the Basilica’s media center, told reporters that they are expecting 7,000 to 10,000 devotees to flock to the historical church either to pay homage to the holy image of the Sto. Niño de Cebu or to hear novena masses.

She encouraged the devotees to follow security and safety procedures being implemented at the Basilica.

The Agustinian community that oversees the over-all celebration of the 455th Fiesta Señor this year has collaborated with the Philippine National Police for the safety and security of both the locals and visiting devotees.

She reiterated the police’s policy that no backpack will be allowed inside the Basilica, to prevent causing alarm to the devotees or disturb the solemn celebration inside the 455-year-old church’s pilgrim center. (PNA)