Street dwellers are not being relocated because of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit from November 17 to 20, Malacañang said on Friday.
Speaking to reporters, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said relocating the homeless was not part of the government’s APEC preparations.
“[They are not being] hidden from view. [We have explained that the] modified CCT [conditional cash transfer][is a program long implemented by the]DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development],” according to Valte.
”[The DSWD’s assistance is not given only during big events like the APEC summit and we strive to help the homeless] transition from the streets into dignified living quarters,” she said.
Valte added that activities for the homeless families are annual events.
She was reacting to Manila Auxilliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo’s statement criticizing the government’s planned removal of informal settlers from the streets supposedly while the APEC meeting is being held.
Pabillo accused the government of concealing the poor in the Philippines whenever a big international gathering is to be hosted by the country.
The government’s “solution,” according to him, does not work because the poor remain poor after the gathering is concluded.
But as early as October, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman had denied that they will be hiding homeless families during the APEC meeting.
Quoting Soliman, Valte said the modified CCT Program covers street dwellers, including victims of calamities and indigenous peoples living in the National Capital Region or Metro Manila.
“We do this in conjunction with the local governments because the DSWD cannot do it alone,” the Malacanang official added.
“Of course, we cannot keep them against their will, [can we]?” she said. “So once they become part of the orientation, if they qualify, we give them assistance and then we give them assistance for housing rent.”
Parts of Manila Bay would be declared “no sail zones” during the four-day APEC summit.
The Philippine Coast Guard spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Arman Balilo disclosed also on Friday that Task Force Maritime, composed of Coast Guard, Navy and Maritime Police, was created to secure certain portions of the bay.
“We have already identified certain areas [to be secured]. We are currently in discussion with shipping firms and other concerned sectors,” Balilo told The Manila Times.
He, however, refused to identify the areas, saying it would include those that are within sight of designated routes for heads of states and other delegates who would be attending the APEC meeting.
Balilo said they would come up with final details of the security measures to be implemented on the bay next week.
Roxas Boulevard from the Manila Hotel to the Airport Road in Pasay City will be closed to both trucks and motorists during the event.
Trucks coming from the port area would only be allowed to pass designated truck routes from 10 p. m. to 6 a.m.
Airport authorities have canceled all international and domestic flights on November 16 and 18 to give unhampered access to the arrival and departure of the heads of state of APEC member-countries.
They said all roads leading to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are open to vehicular traffic during the summit.
This was clarified by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) during its coordination meeting with airline partners, ground handlers, government agencies operating at the airport and representatives of the airports in Clark in Pampanga and Cebu.
Although both lanes of Roxas Boulevard will be closed from November 16 to 20 particularly from Katigbak Drive to NAIA Road (formerly MIA Road), passengers with flights on those dates are free to use other routes going to the NAIA such as Aurora Boulevard coming from EDSA, Andrews Avenue and South Luzon Expressway.
Airlines are expected to announce further changes in their flight operations as more heads of state informed the summit’s organizing committee of schedules that they will be keeping.
Commercial flights will still push through from November 16 to 20 but will be subjected to flight disruptions such as delays, diversions and even cancelations.
Periodic runway closures will be in place as aircraft of the heads of state arrive and leave Manila.
MIAA reiterates its advice to passengers to fly ahead or after the APEC summit.
The passengers are further encouraged to get in touch with their airlines for any changes in their flight schedules.
This is the second time the Philippines was designated APEC summit host. The first was in 1996.