Philippine travel advice

Pope Francis to visit Manila and Leyte Province, Philippines, Jan. 15-19. Expect major transport disruptions and extremely tight security near planned events.

This alert began 20 Dec 2014 03:10 GMT and is scheduled to expire 19 Jan 2015 23:59 GMT.

– Event: Papal visit
– Locations: Metro Manila and Tacloban City, Leyte Province
– Time Frame: Jan. 15-19
– Impact: Tight security, transport disruptions Summary His Holiness Pope Francis will visit Manila and Leyte Province in the Philippines Jan. 15-19. The pope will stay at the Embassy of the Holy See on Taft Avenue during his stay in Manila, where he will meet with President Benigno Aquino at Malacanang Complex and hold public Masses at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City (Jan. 16) and Rizal/Luneta Park (Jan. 18). On Jan. 17, the pontiff will travel to Tacloban City in Leyte Province, where he will hold another public Mass. Pope Francis will also attend several events and meetings in the Palo municipality in Leyte. Millions of Catholics will gather for papal events, with enormous crowds expected in Metro Manila.

The visit will cause major transport disruptions in the capital and Tacloban City. Police will close roadways in Metro Manila to accommodate the papal motorcade Jan. 15 and 19. Large crowds and major traffic disruptions are also likely along routes that the pope will use to reach scheduled events. Expect increased congestion on public transport throughout the capital, especially bus and light rail stations in Manila and Pasay City. Similar ground transport disruptions are likely in Tacloban City. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has also suspended operations at Tacloban City’s Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport (TAC) on Jan. 17 due to security concerns.

At least one Islamist extremist group has threatened to assassinate Pope Francis. Police and military officials have not publicized details of security plans for the papal visit, but extremely tight security will be in place at all events where the pope is in attendance. Increased security can also be expected at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), ports throughout Luzon, and bus terminals in Metro Manila. Police may launch security operations to clear street vendors from sensitive areas and increase surveillance in parts of Metro Manila where Islamist extremists could potentially try to blend in with the local population (such as the Tondo and Quiapo districts in Manila and Cubao and Barangay Culiat in Quezon City).

While militants could attempt to target the pontiff, huge crowds of devotees will presumably be much more accessible targets. Even if an attack does not materialize, the discovery of unattended bags or other suspicious items could prompt security scares in public areas and at transport hubs, shopping centers, and other crowded locations. Additional terror warnings, including bomb threats, are possible before and during the visit. Criminal activity usually spikes during holidays and events that draw large crowds, and increased street crime is possible while the Pope is in the country.

Unless attending papal events, consider avoiding areas where the Pope will hold Mass or attend meetings and events due to massive crowds, road closures, and traffic congestion. Take precautions to avoid theft; do not wear loose jewelry or display cellular phones or other valuables in crowded areas. Plan accordingly for potential air, road, rail, and maritime transport disruptions due to possible bomb scares or other security disturbances before and during the papal visit.