It’s all systems go for General Santos City’s famed 2018 Tuna Festival that will formally open on Saturday, Sept. 1, amid heightened security measures.

Vice Mayor Shirlyn Banas-Nograles said Wednesday they have finalized the necessary preparations for the “bigger and grander” festivity, which is expected anew to draw thousands of both local and foreign visitors.

“So far, everything is set and we’re ready for the opening,” the vice mayor said.

Organizers picked mardi gras as the main concept of the five-day festival, which is themed: “Megatuna Fun in Metro Gensan.”

Nograles said they have lined up new activities and spiced the usual attractions, which includes the tuna float parade, sugbahanay sa fishport, grand fish fest sa fishport, sugbahan sa dalan and the street dancing competition.

The other highlights are the 20th National Tuna Congress, foam party, tuna arts festival, tunaman triathlon, dragon boat competition, tunafest bancarera, jetski challenge and national skimboarding competition.

A carnival and flea market earlier opened at the city’s oval plaza, which is the main venue of the festival. Nightly shows and concerts featuring celebrities are also scheduled at the oval plaza until Sept. 5, the culmination of the festival.

Malacañang declared Sept. 5 as special non-working day in the city through Proclamation No. 562 issued on Tuesday.

The festival’s culmination coincides with the formal inauguration of the city in 1968 by then President Ferdinand Marcos.

In line with the celebration, authorities said they have doubled the security measures and deployment in parts of the city.

Chief Insp. Jovenson Bayona, operations chief of the city police office, said they have increased the presence of police personnel and force multipliers in strategic areas.

Bayona said the entire area is currently under alert level 3 in the wake of the continuing implementation of martial law in Mindanao and the spate of bomb attacks in nearby areas, with the latest in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat on Tuesday night that left two people dead and 37 others wounded.

“We’re fully prepared and we have laid down all necessary security measures to ensure a peaceful and successful festival,” he said.

Bayona said around 800 personnel from the city police and the Police Regional Office-12 would be deployed in various venues during the entire festivities. Police personnel will be augmented by 600 force multipliers composed of barangay peacekeeping teams and the city’s civil security unit.

Elements from the Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan will also be on full deployment during the festivity, he said. (PNA)

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