By Joseph B.A. Marzan
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas on Monday expressed confidence that the city government was “almost entirely prepared” for the physical return of the annual Dinagyang Festival, which happens almost two weeks from now.
In his regular weekly press conference, Treñas said the city has been tackling security and medical concerns with respective police and health bodies, in anticipation of not just the usual tourists, but also the First Family led by First Lady Marie Louise Araneta, as well as foreign dignitaries and celebrities.
As to the rate of the city government’s readiness, he said that they are at “95 percent”.
“We have coordinated with the [Philippine National] Police and the [Philippine] Army, and our medical team is ready, I think they have been meeting almost regularly. The [Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc.] is ready. They have been reporting to me, and the budget and the requirements, they seem ready,” he said.
“The city government is ready. I just have to give instructions to the engineers to add lights and where to put them to be able to establish them, but we [in the] city government are ready.”
Because of the high expectations for the festival’s comeback to the streets, Treñas affirmed that many of the city’s accommodation establishments have been fully booked, sans those which have higher rates.
“[Accommodation packages] aren’t really overpriced because these are made for 3 days and 2 nights, or 4 days and 3 nights (sic), there are P10,000 (rate) with breakfast. I had placed some of our visitors there. I think it’s really about time for the hotel industry to start being revived,” Treñas said.
“We have a greater capacity compared to other cities because we have many hotels and condominium units placed on Airbnb. You will be surprised that there are still condominium units which are not occupied yet. Some [visitors] prefer that because they can cook there and not spend as much coming here,” he added.
Treñas also addressed the rising cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in China, as well as the recent cases of unvaccinated persons, saying he would meet soon with the City Health Office as well as officials previously involved with quarantine protocols in preparation for possible infections during the festival.
He cited the city’s recent data of zero new COVID cases in the past days, and the dismal number of patients admitted to the modular hospital in Arevalo district.
Treñas confidently said that COVID-19 will not ravage Iloilo as there is no direct connectivity to China or any COVID-affected country as of the moment as flights to and from Hong Kong and Singapore remain suspended.
“We will continue to remind everyone [of health protocols], but [COVID] cases are going down. We are monitoring cases from China but we don’t have any direct flights there. They come through Manila, Cebu, and Kalibo,” he said.
Treñas also doubled down on the city’s disclaimer over last Saturday’s Dinagyang Duathlon, despite its appearance as first in the list of official pre-festival activities this January.
The mayor said since this was a private event, he would defer the matter to the Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI), one of the private main organizers of the festival, and not of the Sports Development Division.
His Executive Assistant for Youth and Sports, Rudiver Jungco Sr., said in a statement on behalf of the division that the event was not sanctioned by their office.
Daily Guardian has reached out to IFFI Executive Director Joyce Clavecillas for comment on the matter, but she has yet to respond as of this writing.
Treñas said that his chief of staff, Jonas Bellosillo, and City Administrator Melchor Tan are currently investigating the matter.
The duathlon’s organizer, Iloilo Active Sports, apologized in a Facebook post on Monday saying it would add P7,000 cash prize for first place finishers in each age subcategory, P5,200 for second placers, and P3,500 for third placers.
“We know that we all compete not only for the camaraderie we experience in these events but also for the pride and prize that come along with it. We also know the disappointments and sadness you feel in competing in an event that does not meet your expectations or standards. And we again apologize for any misunderstanding that happened after the event. All winners in all categories will be given the prizes as published by the organizing committee,” Iloilo Active Sports’ statement read.