NO road closures, no hiding street dwellers.
This was the promise of government agencies involved in the country’s hosting of the Miss Universe in January, aside from the usual assurances of tight security, as pageant candidates began arriving in Manila on Friday.
Tourism Undersecretary Katherine de Castro said President Rodrigo Duterte did not like what happened during the visits of US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, and Manila’s hosting of the APEC summit when street dwellers were picked up by authorities and hidden in resorts.
“When we presented it to President Duterte that’s the first thing he said. Don’t close the roads, don’t hide people. Let’s show that despite poverty, there is beauty in this country,” she said in a news conference in Malacañang.
Interior Undersecretary Emily Padilla said the government would mobilize “to the hilt” resources to secure the pageant, which will be broadcast worldwide from the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on January 30, 2017.
“We cannot afford any lapses in security, our enforcement agencies will make sure that there will be a safe and successful holding of the Miss Universe,” Padilla told reporters.
January will be busy for law enforcement agencies because, aside from the Miss Universe pageant, meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will also be held in Manila.
“We have managed to show the world already that we are capable of providing security to major events, like the papal visit and the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), and now the Asean which will coincide with this Miss Universe,” Padilla said.
Padilla said there was no specific security threat to the pageant.
Aside from the Mall of Asia Arena, Miss Universe pageant events will take place in Cebu, Vigan and Siargao, among other venues.
President Duterte, who is invited to the show, will meet the Miss Universe candidates in the Palace on January 23, de Castro said.
Pageant bets arrived in Manila on Friday ahead of the welcome party for the 65th Miss Universe candidates to be held at the Conrad Hotel in Pasay City on Saturday.
Half-Filipina Tania Pauline Dawson of New Zealand was the first to arrive at 3:20 a.m. on board Philippine Airlines Flight PR 219, while Deshauna Barber of the United States came in at around 4:45 a.m. on board PR 103. Also spotted at the Manila airport was Miss Korea Jenny Kim.
De Castro and former Ilocos Sur governor Luis “Chavit” Singson, chairman of the pageant’s private partners, welcomed the Miss Universe hopefuls.
Barber and reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines, who returned to Manila on Thursday, had been roommates.
“Pia has told me a lot about what to expect, so I am hoping you guys can still surprise me. This country has been so wonderful to me since my being crowned. And the support that I received from the Philippines has been wonderful, so I am incredibly excited to be here and I look forward to all the festivities,” Barber said.