Apec security 20 times harder than papal visit
The security considerations of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders’ Meeting next week are 20 times more challenging than the pastoral visit of Pope Francis last January, or even of the first time the Philippines hosted the meeting 19 years ago.
“The Pope’s visit was a dry run for all of us. You multiply that to 20. That is what we are facing in terms of security,” said Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., director general of the Apec 2015 National Organizing Council.
Twenty because there are 20 high-level foreign leaders, not including the country’s own President Benigno Aquino III, who have to be secured for the two-day meeting.
“That was why we had to declare (Nov. 18 and 19) holidays. It has to be explained that anything untoward that could happen to these leaders will be an embarrassment to the whole country,” Paynor said.
The minute the world leaders land in Manila, every move has to be calculated and coordinated, he said.
Closed, cordoned off
For the two-day leaders’ meeting, the 21 officials will be gathered in one room of the Philippine International Convention Center in the Cultural Center Complex.
All 21 leaders, including Mr. Aquino, will be billeted in 14 five-star hotels located on Roxas Boulevard, the Makati Central Business District, and Ortigas, according to Paynor.
Thus, the entire vicinity around the PICC, including Roxas Boulevard, will have to be cordoned off, said Paynor.
All roads, including Edsa, going to Makati and Pasay will be closed to motorists.
The United States and Russia have specifically requested that there should be no other movement when their leaders start using a road.
A joint task force of the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and related agencies will be handling the security of the Apec meetings.
But the Presidential Security Group and the PNP will be responsible for securing the hotels where the leaders will be staying.
“The PSG takes care of the leaders’ floors in their hotels, one up and one down,” Paynor said.
Paynor, who was the chief of protocol for President Fidel Ramos in 1996, said there is “a world of difference” between the Philippines’ hosting of Apec at Subic Bay in Zambales province in 1996 and in Manila this year.
“Security considerations then were different. The threat levels have gone up for 19 years by 1,000 percent,” he said.
“We are looking at how we can safely conduct the meeting without making the place look like it was isolated,” said Paynor.
Although the PNP will be using lessons learned from the experience of securing the hugely popular Pope Francis last January, PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said the challenge this time lies in securing the large number of delegates who are coming for the Apec meetings.
“During the papal visit, the challenge was in securing both Pope Francis and the millions of Filipinos wanting to get near him. Now, the challenge is the number of delegates we have to secure as the host country,” he said.
He added that Filipinos, particularly Catholics, wanted to get physically involved in the papal visit while this time around, they will be mostly observing the Apec from the sidelines.
Mayor noted that during the papal visit, the millions of Filipinos attending the Pope’s public engagements were driven to behave properly because of their faith.
This time, the PNP and other agencies in the security sector are preparing for a different type of crowd, an almost hostile one, in the form of protesters expected to carry out anti-Apec rallies.
All manner of threats
PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez and Interior Secretary Mel Sarmiento said the security task force for the meetings has prepared for “all potential threats,” ranging from natural calamities and criminal elements, to rallies and even the possibility of the police being struck by food poisoning or the flu.
The police will be putting up checkpoints, quick reaction units, intelligence officers, tactical operations center personnel, incident management teams,walk-through scanning, baggage X-rays, pat-down security, police assistance desks, vehicles screening, pedestrian screening, room, parking and perimeter security, and explosive and ordnance division personnel at the Apec venues, hotels and routes.
The task force is in charge of the venue, billet and route security, emergency preparedness, as well as peace and order which includes crowd control and anti-criminality campaigns.
Marquez, who is the commander of the interagency task force, said it was preparing for more than 10,000 participants.
“We are confident we have put up a good security plan. We have covered 36 events already. We have gathered the best people and practices from those events. Our people learned on the job. This is the final show,” said Mayor, who also directed the security preparations for the five-day visit of Pope Francis last January.
Marquez and Sarmiento declined to give specific deployment details, particularly the overall police deployment figures, citing the need for the “confidentiality” of operations.
However, Marquez said the deployment was “big enough to secure anybody.”
“We are bringing in some personnel from other regions… so that anticrime operations in the National Capital Region will not be jeopardized, making sure that a sizable number of NCR personnel are still doing regular operations,” he said.
He said the alert level for the national police will be raised to full alert by Saturday, meaning all police officers will be on duty.
Chief Insp. Kimberly Molitas, spokesperson of the National Capital Region Police Office, said the Metro Manila police are already on full alert, starting last Thursday.
“We’ll make sure other areas are secure also. We have critical infrastructures to guard. There are probably other elements who would like to go to Manila and create problems. That’s part of security perspective,” said Marquez.
The Armed Forces, which is in a support role to the PNP, is lending manpower and equipment to the police. Mayor said they have requested the air, land and maritime assets of the military, which have been 100 percent in place weeks before the meetiongs.
The military is preparing for any related risk to humanitarian assistance and disaster response situation, which may include chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats (CBRN). The Army’s CBRN unit will be also deployed to the Apec.
Aside from the full-scale exercises over the weekend, the PNP has been rehearsing evacuation drills, police personnel given flu vaccines, and caterers limited to serving only 300 police personnel to ensure that the food is always fresh.
Molitas said all 18,000 Metro Manila police members will be on the ground during the meetings. Around 100 policemen will be securing each of the hotels where heads of state or governments will be staying. Molitas said the hotels had been “screened” beforehand.
More than 800 men from the Highway Patrol Group will be manning the routes to be taken by the dignitaries and accompanying official convoys, said spokesperson Supt. Grace Tamayo.
The PSG will be working with the security agents of the foreign dignitaries in securing the government heads. The police Security and Protection Group will secure the ministers.
The government will be providing 300 BMW cars to transport the Apec ministers and senior officials.
Automobile company BMW has sponsored the vehicles after winning the public bidding this year.
The world leaders, except for Obama and Putin who will be bringing their own cars, will ride the BMW 7 series.
Marquez confirmed that earlier this year the Department of Budget and Management purchased for the PNP 110 units of the 2015 Toyota Altis, as well as around 200 new motorcycles for the use of the security convoys for the dignitaries.
Local suppliers have also “lent” Nissan and BMW sedans to the PNP for the same purpose, he said.
The security task force’s Multiagency Coordinating Center, manned by 20 government agencies, will also provide a live monitoring of Apec activities, including road and air movements. Security cameras have been set up along the routes, at the PICC, and at the hotels.
No security threat
The military and the police said they have not monitored any security threat to the Apec meetings and all possible threat groups are being monitored as well.
In a statement sent out on Wednesday, Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya categorically denied that recent insurgency-related incidents in southern Luzon were related to the Apec summit.
Visaya was referring to four consecutive encounters between the military and New People’s Army in Oriental Mindoro, Camarines Sur and Albay provinces on Nov. 10 and Nov. 11.
Visaya said the NPA was just attempting “to project strength of their organization which has been continuously on the drop.”
“The Southern Luzon Command has not monitored in its area of responsibility any information on NPA plans to disrupt the upcoming Apec,” Visaya said.
According to Molitas, if protest rallies should break out, “we will ensure that they will be held peacefully and in an orderly manner, without incident.”
Marquez said foreign embassies, the conference venues, and the hotels involved in the meetings are “controlled areas” which would be hard for protesters to approach.
“We will close ceremonial roads. Only those authorized will have access. Those roads are in the vicinity of billet hotels and major venues,” he said.
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