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Philippines plays down security threat at summit

Philippines, which holds the rotating chair of ASEAN, has deployed around 10,000 policemen to patrol the hotels and streets of Cebu.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2006 18:24 IST

Philippine officials played down on Thursday the risk of militants bombing a gathering of Asian leaders next week after the British government warned terrorists were in the final stages of planning attacks.

The heads of 10 Southeast Asian nations along with the leaders of China, Japan, India, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia will meet on the central island of Cebu on December 11-13 for a flurry of summits, dinners and closed door talks.

"There's no specific and direct threats in Cebu during the summit meetings," Chief Superintendent Silverio Alarcio, regional police chief, told Reuters, adding that a travel advisory for Cebu on the British embassy website was "just a warning".

"That does not mean there was really an imminent attack."

The Philippines is fighting Muslim and communist insurgencies and officials have told the agency that they were checking reports that members of regional Muslim terror group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and local partner Abu Sayyaf were trying to get into Cebu.

"We've been getting regular reports of bomb threats in some big shopping malls," said one police officer.

"We can't really ignore these things, so we're checking the information quietly because we don't want people to panic."

In March, police said an improvised bomb was discovered at a large shopping centre close to a convention centre being used for briefings for the summit of the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) and a gathering of East Asian leaders.

The Philippines, which holds the rotating chair of ASEAN, has deployed around 10,000 police and 3,000 soldiers to patrol the luxury hotels and streets of Cebu and nearby Mactan Island to secure the gathering.

Counter-terrorism is set to take centre stage during the ASEAN summit with leaders hoping to sign a convention clamping down on the threat from Muslim militants such as JI, which seeks an Islamic "super state" across parts of the region.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand.