Philippines travel advice

The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) will be on full alert starting at 6 a.m. today in line with security preparations for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

NCRPO chief Director Carmelo Valmoria ordered the five police district directors and 38 station commanders to seal the muzzle of the service firearms of the police officers.

At the NCPRO, the gun sealing will be held right after the flag-raising ceremony at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.

Valmoria said the sealing would prevent police officers from firing guns during the Christmas and New Year revelries.

The NCRPO is among government agencies tapped by the Department of Health (DOH) to implement a program dubbed “Mahalaga ang Buhay, Iwasan ang Paputok.”

The program was meant to reduce or avert casualties and injuries during the twin celebrations. Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina warned that any officers caught indiscriminately firing their guns would be dismissed from service.

The DOH recorded at least 600 casualties during the previous Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Earlier, Valmoria ordered the police district directors and station commanders to intensify the campaign against imported and banned firecrackers.

He said an intensified police deployment in shopping malls, bus terminals and in any public places helped lower the crime rate in Metro Manila this holiday season.

The NCRPO chief said they received no significant crimes as Filipinos in Metro Manila attended dawn masses.

Malls warned vs shoplifters

Northern Police District director Chief Superintendent Jonathan Miano warned shopping malls to be on guard against shoplifters and pickpockets who may take advantage of the holiday rush.

Miano reported a rise in thefts at malls this month.

“We deployed officers outside shopping malls in our area of responsibility. Most of the incidents occur inside. The management must heighten their in-house security measures,” Miano said.

Some establishments have made arrests, but only a few were reported to the police, apparently because mall officials are worried the incidents may be blown out of proportion, a mall supervisor who requested anonymity said.

The source said security is heightened during the “ber” months as it is during this period when thefts are frequent.

Teamwork

Mall thieves are classified into two – those who are not professionals and those who are members of an organized crime syndicate – a former member of a shoplifting group operating in Metro Manila and Region 3 said.

“We go out in groups in several vehicles, plan our moves before victimizing a particular department store or supermarkets. Usually we have our targets under surveillance so we know where the guards and closed-circuit television cameras are located,” the source said.

She said each member of the team has a role: the screener, the assist man, and the actual operators.

“Sometimes we use children because they are good decoys,” she said.

The source said a financier, usually a person who is into buying and selling goods, takes care of the group’s needs.

She said 70 percent of the loot goes to the financier and 30 percent to the group. Sometimes they split 50-50.

There are instances when they are caught.

“When this happens, no one talks. We just tell the guards we work alone and wait for the financier to post bail once we are charged,” she said.

The source said that sometimes the mall management would simply let them walk away after they pay for the item they stole.

Miano said the syndicate preys not only on shops but also on shoppers. He said the public should report any incidents to the security guards or the police.

Safe travel

More than 63,000 sea passengers have left in ships and other sea vessels to spend the holiday in the provinces, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) reported yesterday.

Two days after the PCG implemented the “Oplan Ligtas Byahe: Krismas 2014,” the number of sea travelers has gone up to 63,429 as of 2 p.m. yesterday.

Majority of the passengers were from Central Visayas with 16,322; followed by Western Visayas with 13,083; Southern Tagalog, 8,768; Northern Mindanao, 8,111; Bicol, 4,440; Southwestern Mindanao, 3,875; Southeastern Mindanao, 3,665; Eastern Visayas, 2,133; Palawan, 1,794; Northwestern Luzon, 649; National Capital Region, 308, Northeastern Luzon, 281.

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