Areas where delegates to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit will converge or pass through will be turned into “gar-risons” as security forces threw a tight security blanket over the cities of Manila and Pasay to ensure that no breaches ever occur.
Coordinated terrorist attacks over the weekend in Paris have prompted Malacañang, military, police and airport officials to fortify security plans for the APEC summit that will be attended by heads of states.
As world leaders started arriving on Sunday in Manila, the police and military beefed up security at vital installations particularly in areas where APEC activities will be held.
A police official involved in the security preparations said the elaborate measures may be perceived to be an “overkill” but officials, he added, would rather go overboard than be found wanting.
“It’s better to be criticized for that than be sorry later,” he told The Manila Times.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) has begun tightening watch on seaports, airports and rail systems.
Col. Restituto Padilla, spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said more security forces will be deployed as the military heightened intelligence monitoring and intelligence sharing with their counterparts in other countries.
He allayed fears that local terrorist groups sympathetic to ISIS such as the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) will launch attacks similar to the terror strikes in France.
“The ISIS presence here is very small. [Attacks] are very remote. They [local terrorist groups]are not that [capable of mounting offensive operations], Padilla said.
“We’re looking forward to a safe, secure, peaceful and successful conduct of the summit,” he added.
Malacañang said President Benigno Aquino 3rd is particularly concerned about the safety of the APEC leaders who will be meeting in Manila on November 18 and 19.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President is “personally” taking charge of the security preparations to cover all security aspects.
“The President’s instruction is centered on strengthening the security preparations. The President also continues to personally oversee the preparations for the APEC meetings, particularly on ensuring the safety, peace and order among the public and the leaders who will be coming from different countries,” Coloma said.
On Saturday, the police and military went on full alert after gunmen killed more than 120 people in Paris.
US President Barack Obama is set to join the leaders of China, Japan, Australia, Canada and 15 others at an annual Leaders’ Meeting.
Aquino also convened security officials at the Bahay Pangarap, his official residence, and reviewed measures being rolled out.
Coloma said this is in line with the President’s directive for the military and police to maximize their readiness in reacting to any contingencies.
“The President wants all important aspects regarding security to be perfect, that no detail will be overlooked,” he pointed out.
The Philippine National Police’s Aviation Security Group (Avsegroup) has doubled the number of forces at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to secure the arrivals and departures of world leaders.
Members of the Special Operations Unit (SOU), the elite force of the group, were deployed to NAIA’s four terminals last week to provide support to the regular aviation police personnel.
K9 units patrol the airport perimeters particularly where aircraft are parked.
According to Avsegroup director Pablo Francisco Balagtas, half of the elite troops will guard the planes of the world leaders.
“Guarding more than 20 aircraft is not so easy. The designated planes’ parking area should be kept out of unauthorized personnel,” Balagtas said.
Even trucks supplying aviation fuels to the premier airport will go through rigid screening and inspection before being allowed inside.
MMDA on red alert
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) also declared a red alert in wake of the terror attacks in Paris.
MMDA Chairman Emerson Carlos on Sunday said their personnel will help law enforcement agencies in securing the safety of the APEC delegates.
The agency’s Metrobase will monitor situations in various parts of Metro Manila through the hundreds of CCTV cameras installed in various thoroughfares.
Any untoward incident monitored will be relayed to the police.
At the same time, Carlos advised motorists to stay away from the APEC venues to avoid being inconvenienced.
He said the two innermost lanes of EDSA have been designated as APEC lanes and these will be for the exclusive use of authorized vehicles of delegates.
Besides EDSA, several roads will be closed to vehicular traffic. The stretch of Roxas Boulevard from Katigbak Drive to Airport Road in Pasay City will also be closed to traffic in both directions.
There will also be road closures near the Mall of Asia Arena from November 18 starting at 6 a.m. until midnight and in the Cultural Center of the Philippines from November 16 to 20.
With RITCHIE A. HORARIO and BENJIE L. VERGARA