Malacañang gave assurances Thursday that foreign delegates to this month’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila are safe and need not worry about any possible terrorist attack or disruption.
Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the intelligence community has not monitored any movement or plot from any particular group except those who are planning to hold anti-APEC rallies.
“According to security (agencies), there are no specific threats,” she told The Manila Times in a text message.
Security officials earlier issued a similar guarantee that no terror threat was detected by their agents on the ground.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police claimed that the only “challenge” they face is from rallyists. The two agencies said they have laid out an elaborate security blanket before, during and after the APEC meetings that will be attended by various heads of state.
Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel, confirmed in a separate interview that they have not detected threats from local groups, including those that were reported to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“There is none but so-called terrorists can be transnational. However, that too is very unlikely,” Iqbal told The Times.
Despite these assurances of safety, Iqbal maintained that the public must still remain vigilant.
At the same time, Malacañang urged the public to avoid areas where APEC meetings will be held so as not to be inconvenienced.
Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, who is also the traffic czar, said some roads will be closed so it will be best for motorists to stay away from APEC areas.
“If you don’t really have to do anything absolutely urgent in these areas, then better stay at home,” Almendras said.
He said Metro residents can even go on a long vacation since the Palace had declared Nov. 18 and 19 non-working holidays.
“We are hosting a very big event. So many important people that we need to make sure are going to be safe and can move around normally in a way they are able to move,” he added.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd will hold several bilateral talks with APEC leaders, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.
During a press briefing, Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said there were about 10 bilateral meetings scheduled for the President. He didn’t say with which leaders Aquino will be meeting, but confirmed that Chinese President Xi Jinping was not among them so far.
Xi is the only leader who has yet to confirm his attendance for the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting (AELM) on November 18 and 19.
Jose said the President is free to discuss with leaders matters of regional concerns, including threats on the freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea.
Sources said Aquino could hold a bilateral meeting with US President Barack Obama, who has openly challenged China’s activities in the region.
Foreign Affairs chief Albert del Rosario may also hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts from the APEC economies, but nothing has been finalized yet.