ASEAN: Maximum security, minimum hassle for Metro Manila

MANILA, Philippines – With over 2,000 delegates, including top government officials, flying into Manila for the 30th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, Philippine security officials are working 24/7 to make sure none of the threats they’re preparing for actually materialize.

But aside from making sure delegates are secure, Philippine government officials are seeing to it that Metro Manila's residents need not carry the burden of the summit. (READ: 1/3 of ASEAN 2017 budget devoted to security)

“You see how good the planning is because we have to follow the instruction of [President Rodrigo Duterte] when he said that ASEAN is not just for the guests but also, first and foremost… the Filipino,” said Police Director Napoleon Taas, chief of the ASEAN Security Task Force, in an interview on Sunday, April 23.

Unlike the last time the Philippines played host to a major global summit, road closures will be kept to a minimum. While several roads inside cities where delegates will be billeted or hold meetings will be closed, EDSA, Metro Manila’s primary thoroughfare, will largely remain untouched except when delegates need to pass by.

“You’re not going to expect that, except when a leader is passing [then] they’re going to stop traffic,” added Taas, when asked about possible inconveniences to the riding public during those dates.

When Metro Manila was host to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in 2015, commuters and motorists found themselves stuck in heavier-than-usual traffic, thanks in part to heightened security ahead of and during the meeting of world leaders. A lane along EDSA was made exclusive to APEC delegates. The same will not happen for the ASEAN hosting.

The Palace has since suspended classes and work in all government and private offices in the entire Metro Manila on April 28. Government work in the cities of Manila, Makati, and Pasay, will also be suspended on April 27.

Minimal airport interruptions

Unlike the 2015 APEC summit, flight cancellations and delays will be kept to a minimum as ASEAN leaders fly into the country.

Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr, ASEAN 2017 National Organizing Council Director-General for Operations, said that when top officials fly into the country, they will be given “priority landing” but will not entail a “no movement” notice an hour before and 30 minutes after.

Paynor explained this was a requirement for some world leaders during the APEC summit. Thus far, none of the ASEAN leaders have requested the same protocol.

Sabi nga ni presidente kung wala naman talagang (The president said, as long as there’s no) serious threat [there’s no need to order ‘no movement']. We will elevate the security measures, of course, but let [ASEAN leaders] have priority landing. But all other commercial flights should not be affected,” added Paynor, who was also director general for the APEC 2015 organizing council.

Beginning Sunday, some 41,000 personnel from different government agencies – the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and the Presidential Security Group, among others – will be deployed to secure the different areas and routes that will be used during the summit and related meetings from April 27 to 29.

The April 2017 summit is only the first of two summits that the country will host, and is just the 59th out of more than 130 meetings set in the Philippines from 2016 to November 2017. –