PH security officials: We can't fail ASEAN Summit
MANILA, Philippines – Like coaches rallying team members to start and finish strong, top Philippine security officials on Sunday, April 23, gave pep talks to government personnel tasked to provide security and emergency response during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Metro Manila from April 27 to 29.
At the Quirino Grandstand in Pasay City, over 9,000 personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), among others, gathered for a "send-off" before they are deployed ahead of the summit.
A bigger bulk of personnel were not able to attend the April 23 sendoff – some 41,000 people will be providing security and emergency services for the 2,000 or so delegates of the summit and local communities affected by the event.
All ASEAN member states are expected to send their leaders for the days-long summit.
"Imagine ourselves na nasa playoff tayo ng NBA ngayon (Imagine that we're in the playoffs of the NBA right now)," said PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa, whose men and women compose a bulk of the ASEAN security force.
"Look at the performance of the Boston Celtics. They had a really good record and they were even number one in their conference but when they arrived at the playoffs, their performance kind of faltered and they lost in their own home court to the Chicago Bulls," added Dela Rosa.
He went on: "The same applies to us. Our preparation has been so long, the planning has been so long. But if come D-Day, when everything must be perfect, we relax, someone gets through us, our performance the entire season becomes pointless because we faltered during the playoffs."
The pressure is on for Philippine security officials, as the country hosts its 2nd major summit in less than two years. Manila also hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in November 2015.
Global security issues
ASEAN leaders are flying in weeks after Philippine police and military were able to thwart a supposed attempt by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to kidnap people in Bohol province, a major tourist destination.
On April 11, police and military exchanged gunfire with several members of the group, who rode pump boats from Sulu province in Mindanao to Inabanga town in the Visayas.
Ten people were killed during the clash, 6 of them alleged ASG members. Days later on April 22, the military conducted another operation and killed 4 more suspected ASG members in Clarin, Bohol.
Marciano Paynor Jr, ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council Director-General for Operations, said whether or not the Bohol clashes happened, security forces for the summit are preparing for all possible outcomes and working hard to ensure "zero incidents."
"Again, no one can claim 100% readiness. They can only claim that after the event has happened," he said.
Paynor is no stranger to the herculean task of playing host not just to a summit but all the meetings before and after it. He also headed preparations when the Philippines hosted the APEC Summit and its related meetings in 2015.
"Everything is the same preparations, security… these are multi-lateral meetings. The challenges come on the basis of the participants, one. But two, also security events happening worldwide," Paynor said in a press conference on Sunday.
He noted that it's not just local threats that they consider, but international ones as well. Days before world leaders began flying into the Philippines for the 2015 APEC Summit, a series of terrorist attacks had hit France.
Security forces then prepared for the "worst-case" scenario – a terrorist attack.
"This is only meeting 56 and there are 139 meetings. And every single one of these meetings, we treat the same. We upscale or downscale depending on the delegates [and] when leaders come, definitely… the standards are 10, 20 times higher," explained Paynor.
To emphasize the goal of zero incidents during the summit, Dela Rosa chose to poke fun at himself.
"Look at my head. I'm bald, right? What's the numerical representation of a bald person? Zero, no hair. So during the ASEAN Summit, zero incidents until it's over. Is that clear?" said Dela Rosa.
The 9,000-strong crowd responded, "Yes, sir."
"That's clear, okay? Our deal is if something happens during the ASEAN Summit, after the summit all of you will shave your heads. So we have to focus on our work," added the PNP chief. – Rappler.com