60,000-strong ASEAN security » Manila Bulletin News

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By Analou De Vera, Chito A. Chavez, and Aaron B. Recuenco

READY TO DEPLOY –Government, military, and police officials headed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea (ninth from left) lead the send-off ceremony for the 60,000-man contingent that will secure the ASEAN Summit starting November 13. (Ali Vicoy)

Security preparations for the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings are in full swing, as the government deployed yesterday a 60,000-strong security and emergency force to prevent any possible local or international threat during the weeklong event.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Officer-in-Charge Catalino S. Cuy, who is also chairman of the ASEAN Committee on Security, Peace and Order and Emergency Preparedness and Response (CSPOEPR), led the ceremony for the deployment of the huge security force at Quirino Grandstand yesterday morning and said the government is “ready and equipped” in providing safety to the delegates and the public during the conference.

Members of the ASEAN Security Task Force (ASTF), composing of Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and Philippine Air force (PA), demonstrated their respective land, water, and air assets, during the ceremony. A water cannon salute was also performed, indicating the four colors (blue, red, white and yellow) of the ASEAN Flag, while a civil disturbance management was also reenacted.

“The coming week will serve as the culmination of our year-long efforts. Various meetings were held during the past months but this week is even more important as the heads of state and head of government of ASEAN member nations as well as the dialogue partners will be attending,” said Cuy.

Twenty-one world leaders and the United Nations Security Council Secretary General Antonio Guterres are expected to arrive in the country on November 11, but related events to the summit begin as early as Wednesday.

“All the heads of state of the 10 ASEAN member nations will be here, together with other world leaders from Canada, Japan, [United States of] America, Russia, [and] China,” said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea during the event.

On behalf of President Duterte, Medialdea reminded the security force to serve with full adherence. “I call on you to serve ng buong malasakit (with complete care),” he said. “Magbayanihan tayo (Let’s help one another) for a peaceful and productive ASEAN. Philippines will count more or less another 10 years before we will have the opportunity to host this event. Let us conclude this year’s ASEAN hosting on a very good note,” he added.

The large deployment of troops will also be complemented by the huge resources that are ready to monitor, respond and provide support during the summit.

These resources include the following: 203 patrol cars, 394 motorcycles, 22 armored cars, 30 helicopters, 59 fire trucks, 94 ambulances, 125 explosive detection dogs (EDDs)/K9, and 82 sniper teams.

Cuy underscored that the Philippines is “no stranger to major events” as it already managed to secure previous international events such as the 2015 Papal Visit, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, and the 2016 Miss Universe.

“In this regard, this successes will not serve as a reason for us to be complacent but rather, will served as a challenge for us to match, if not surpass our previous accomplishments. We are now facing even more serious challenges and threats that would require greater attention and efforts,” said Cuy.

No threats

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief said yesterday that, so far, there are no threats to the event.

“As of now, wala pa tayong namo-monitor na ASEAN related threat na pwedeng umusbong. Sa ating mga kababayan, huwag po tayong matakot dahil mino-monitor natin ang situation (we have not monitored any budding threat related to the ASEAN. To our countrymen, let us not be afraid because we are monitoring the situation),” said Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa.

Dela Rosa said the PNP intelligence community has joined forces with some of the world’s top intelligence units to secure the ASEAN events.

“All are focused here in the Philippines and we have intelligence fusion, exchanges between our Philippine intelligence community and foreign counterparts so this is really a big help,” he said.

Vigilance is key

Ambassador Marciano A. Paynor Jr., director general for Operations of the ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council, meanwhile, urged the public to be vigilant and called on residents of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga and other areas affected by the summit activities to tip off security issues to the police.

Speaking at the press briefing, Paynor said: “Kung lahat tayo ay nagmaman-man, tinitingnan natin yung mga tao na pumapasok sa ating lugar, at least makakatulong yun sa ating mga kapulisan. (If all of us are on the lookout; observing the people that enter our area, that information can help our police) Every additional person is an additional pair of eyes and ears.”

But more importantly, Paynor said the event will be a venue for the country “to show the world and ASEAN the Filipino culture of hospitality.”

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