SECURITY forces upgraded their alert status from “blue” to “red” for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in Metro Manila on Nov. 17 to 20 in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France where more than 150 people were reported killed.
“The alert status was also raised a day ahead of schedule as a matter of procedure following any international terrorist incident such as this morning’s terrorist attack in Paris,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla.
Apec security planners are now seriously looking into the Paris incident to ensure security preparations are appropriately upgraded, he said.
President Benigno Aquino III met with the Cabinet’s security cluster for an hour and a half on Saturday to plan for any possible disruption.
“The President convened the security cluster in light of the recent developments. President Aquino wanted to ensure that all preparations are in place and all contingencies have been planned for,” said Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Officials who attended the meeting were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento, National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia and Philippine National Police chief Director-General Ricardo C. Marquez.
Marquez placed all police units across the country on full alert Saturday morning to ensure availability and operational readiness of police forces to respond to any contingencies.
“Although we have not monitored any specific or direct threat in our homefront, nonetheless, target hardening measures on vital installations, particularly seaports, airports and our rail systems have been further elevated to maximize deterrence against unforeseen events,” Marquez said.
“We have received reports of scare messages circulating through telecom and social media networks warning of purported scenarios and events. These only serve to add to public anxiety that may further lead to hysteria and panic. Please disregard such messages and report immediately to authorities,” he added.
Meanwhile, an anti-terrorism strategist, expressing concern over the security of foreign leaders attending the Apec summit amid the Paris attack, underscore the need to deploy police and military personnel in commercial establishment, particularly in places of convergence which may be an alternative target of terrorist attack aside from the Apec venue.
“They should not just put their focus of security in Apec summit event areas, but also in malls, entertainment sites and commercial centers which could be subjected by terrorist attack,” an informed source said without naming his identity.
The attack in Paris by suspected ISIS were launched simultaneously in six different locations mostly in densely converging point of people such as the Bataclan theater (87 killed); Stade de France where unknown number killed; the Boulevard de Charonne restaurant (18 reported killed) two row apartments in Rue dela Fontaine-au-Roi (5 killed) and Rue Alibert (14 killed); and the Boulevard Voltaire (one killed).
“The PNP and AFP extends its sincerest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones,” Padilla said.
Early Saturday, Philippine marines deployed anti-aircraft guns around the main summit venue as police conducted full-scale rehearsal of the visiting leaders’ motorcades to the summit venues and their hotels.
Four days ahead of the Apec summit on Nov. 18-19, 2015, military choppers alternately hovered low overhead while naval gunboats patrolled the waters of nearby Manila Bay.
“There is no credible threat registered at this time, but let us all be cooperative and vigilant,” President Aquino said in a statement, also expressing solidarity with France after gunmen shouting “Allahu akbar” massacred scores of diners and concert-goers across Paris.
The Philippine military put all their forces on “full alert” Saturday, hours after a similar announcement by the national police.
Filipino security forces conducted a mock terrorist attack and response at the Apec venue Saturday, with about a hundred special forces troops jumping out of a military helicopter and storming the building.
Other members of the security forces lay on the pavement outside the Philippine International Convention Center, acting out the role of bloodied civilian casualties.
Asked about the implications of the Paris attacks on the Apec summit, Foreign Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, a member of the organizing committee, told AFP by text: “Higher security.”
The Philippines has cancelled more than a thousand flights, deployed 18,000 police, and declared public holidays in Manila to ensure a safe and efficient summit, the organizers have said.
Major streets in the usually chaotic capital are being closed to traffic to speed up the shuttling of delegates, with police asking building owners to close their windows to prevent their use by snipers.
The Philippines has a long history of Islamic militancy in a southern region about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) from Manila, although extremists have also carried out deadly attacks in the capital.
Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf gunmen killed more than 100 people when they fire-bombed a ferry on Manila Bay in 2004, while the group regularly kidnaps foreign tourists and bombs churches and shopping malls in the south. With AFP
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