Manila goes into lockdown mode for Apec summit

Workers re-painting a pavement in metro Manila as part of a clean-up project for next week's Apec summit in the Philippines.
Workers re-painting a pavement in metro Manila as part of a clean-up project for next week's Apec summit in the Philippines.PHOTO: REUTERS

$300m spent on steps including extra-tight security, no-fly zone

One of Mr Aquino's spokesmen... has urged metropolitan Manila's residents to leave town "and spend time with

your families", to avoid disruptions related to

the Apec summit.

The Philippines is mobilising more than 20,000 security and emergency personnel, shutting down major highways, rescheduling commercial flights and placing the capital Manila on a week-long holiday as it prepares to host 21 world leaders at Apec's 27th summit next week.

"Thus far, I think we are about... 95 per cent to 97 per cent ready," Mr Marciano Paynor, head of the Apec organising council, said at a news briefing yesterday.

The Philippines is spending about 10 billion pesos (S$300 million) in its year-long hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit events.

Mr Paynor defended the sum, telling reporters it is "an infusion of a particular amount of money that we suddenly had, and then we put it into the economy".

He said the amount is also dwarfed by how much China spent when it hosted last year's summit, with US$95 million (S$135 million) spent on landscaping alone.

More than 20,000 policemen, soldiers, firemen and first-aid workers have been enlisted to help keep safe thousands of delegates and leaders who will be attending the Apec Economic Leaders Meeting on Nov 18 and 19, including the United States' Barack Obama, Russia's Vladimir Putin, China's Xi Jinping, and Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong.

President Benigno Aquino is scheduled to hold 11 bilateral meetings during the summit.

No official meeting has been set between Mr Aquino and Mr Xi, but Mr Paynor said the two leaders are expected to meet "on the sides of the summit".

Icy relations between Manila and Beijing enjoyed a slight thaw the last time Mr Aquino and Mr Xi met face-to-face, for about 10 minutes at a tree-planting during last year's Apec summit in China.

Relations between the Philippines and China have sunk to new lows because of a simmering row over the South China Sea, where the two nations have overlapping claims, along with those of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The Apec summit - to be held from Nov 17 to 20 - is expected to draw close to 10,000 delegates.

Mr Paynor said preparations for the summit are 10 times larger than those for Pope Francis' five-day visit to the Philippines in January. At one time during the Pope's visit, security had to be provided during a mass that drew some four million people.

Manila will be on holiday for the most of the summit week.

The government has suspended classes from Nov 17 to 20, and has declared Nov 18 and 19 as special non-working holidays.

One of Mr Aquino's spokesmen, Ms Abigail Valte, has urged metropolitan Manila's residents to leave town "and spend time with your families", to avoid disruptions related to the Apec summit. Local officials are expecting a rush outside the capital starting on Friday.

Nearly 400 flights originally scheduled for next week have already been cancelled, and the skies over Manila will be a no-fly zone for three days.

A major highway leading out of the airport and into the capital will be closed during certain hours from Nov 16 to 20.

Two lanes of metropolitan Manila's main thoroughfare known as Edsa will be reserved for exclusive use by Apec delegates during the week. Some portions of the highway itself will be shut during certain hours.

And for the Apec "family photo", the government has ordered pineapple-threaded barongs - the Philippines' national formal wear - each with a pattern tailored to match each leader's nation.

Over 100,000 Apec commemorative stamps will be issued.

Mr Aquino, who is single, has given his sister, actress Kris Aquino, the task of attending to the leaders' spouses.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline 'Manila goes into lockdown mode for Apec summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe