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Philippines beefs up security

The authorities in Philippines say a terror attack cannot be ruled out although there is no specific threat.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 18:31 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Philippines authorities have ramped up security for this week's summit of Southeast Asian leaders, saying Sunday a terror attack could not be ruled out although there was no specific threat.

After the original gathering last month was postponed at the last minute -- ostensibly because of an approaching typhoon—several thousand extra police have been drafted in for security on the resort island of Cebu.

Armed forces are reinforcing police in securing the venue, while a raft of other measures, including an air exclusion zone and navy patrols, are also in the operation schedule.

"As far as we know there is no specific threat against the summit itself, but we have not ruled anything out," General Silverio Alarsio, who is leading the massive security operation for the related summits of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia group, said.

The country's military chief, General Hermogenes Esperon, said that "there are no concrete plans that have been monitored," for possible terror attacks, but the armed forces were bolstering police in securing the event anyway.

Days before last month's summit was due to open, Canada, Britain, Australia and the United States all issued warnings that "credible information suggests terrorists are in the final stages of planning attacks."

None of those governments released specific details, but the Philippines abruptly cancelled the meetings citing an approaching typhoon which eventually missed Cebu.

Australia, Britain and Canada have maintained their travel warnings on Cebu for this week's summit.

One senior diplomat, who did not want to be named, said: "Although the summit itself may not a target, there is always the possibility of something happening on the fringes, especially places frequented by foreign tourists."

Alarsio said that police and military were working closely with security agencies from Australia and the United States on intelligence gathering.

"Although there is no specific threat to the summit you can never rule out the possibility that something may happen, especially outside of Cebu," he cautioned.

He said some 4,000 military personnel from Manila and the central Visayas islands and 6,000 police were now in place in Cebu.

From Wednesday until January 16, he said, a 32-kilometre no-fly zone will be enforced around Mactan airport and the main summit venues of Cebu City, nearby Mandaue City and the luxury Shangri-la resort where the 10 ASEAN leaders will be staying. "The Philippine navy will patrol waters around Cebu while the airforce will monitor all air movements," Alarsio added.

Although the Philippines no longer maintains any tactical fighters, he was confident the air force would be able to secure the skies effectively.

He also said security forces had been increased by "a few thousand" from December's cancelled summit to provide additional cover for an annual festival taking place in Cebu right after the summit.

Elite troops of the elite presidential security group will ensure security for the 10 ASEAN leaders as well as their counterparts from Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, China and New Zealand attending the East Asia meeting.

Police have stepped up security here with random road checkpoints and car searches, while officers are conducting street patrols near the summit venues including the newly built Cebu International Convention Centre.

Wilfredo Garcia, national police director for operations, said riot police would control protests and other forces would guard vital sites and important figures.

"In other words we are confident that we will be able to secure the ASEAN summit," he added.

The Philippine government has confirmed attendance by all 16 heads of state of ASEAN member countries and their East Asian dialogue partners.

First Published: Jan 08, 2007 17:18 IST