APEC security task force launches hotlines; apologizes for traffic jams
MANILA, Philippines — Have anything to say to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) security task force? On Tuesday, the task force launched two hotlines the public can contact about APEC-related concerns.
While the APEC security task force envisioned the hotlines as a repository for citizen tips — such as reports on “suspicious activities or persons that could prove detrimental to [security] operations” — they acceded it could also be used to air gripes or make queries, such as about the traffic adjustments for the APEC.
The APEC public assistance hotline numbers are 09497260082 for Smart, and 09062163615 for Globe, according to the task force and Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, in a press briefing on Tuesday.
“For those who have concerns about the APEC, they could call these numbers. We only ask that the concerns be valid. Please don’t toy with this. These are important numbers which authorities will act upon. Please let the complaints be valid so the attention of [security personnel] on the ground aren’t diverted,” Mayor said, at the multiagency task force’s command center at One Esplanade in Pasay city.
Mayor said they would refer complaints or queries to the agency concerned. There are 20 government agencies under the APEC security task force, including the PNP.
Mayor acknowledged that top of mind for APEC-related concerns, at least for the general public, have been the “monstrous” traffic jams caused by road closures on Edsa and Roxas Boulevard, and the stop-and-go traffic scheme implemented since Monday to secure APEC venues and the delegates’ routes.
“There are situations we cannot avoid in events like this. This is a massive preparation with so many agencies concerned. This requires the cooperation and partnership of everyone. To our countrymen experiencing traffic, we ask for your forgiveness…We all have our contribution and sacrifice here. And in this simple way, though we are trying to cope, there are situations when we experience inconveniences,” Mayor said.
Chief Supt. Arnold Gunnacao, theHighway Patrol Group (HPG) head, pointed out that on Tuesday, even the airport road was effectively closed due to traffic jams caused by the consecutive arrival of APEC delegates. The traffic paralysis had started to affect even the Cavite expressway and the coastal highway from Metro Manila going into neighboring provinces, Gunnacao said.
“I already announced before which roads will be affected. Some of our countrymen appeared to still try the routes….They didn’t believe our warnings, and so got stuck in traffic,” Gunnacao noted, regarding traffic jams on Monday, which got so bad commuters started walking along Roxas Boulevard, and a pregnant woman ended up giving birth en route to the hospital.
“It is expected that there would be monstrous traffic for APEC week. It is advisable to declare a holiday, which the government did, but our private companies didn’t,” Gunnacao pointed out.
Gunnacao said the strict observance of “APEC lanes” — or designating the inner lanes of Edsa for the exclusive use of APEC delegates — were necessary contingencies for any changes in traffic preparations, such as when the delegates make “sudden movements,” for example, when the Colombian president was invited for a dinner in Cubao in Quezon city on Monday evening.
“We don’t expect the traffic situation to change this week. Monday to Friday we expect this kind of traffic,” Gunnacao said.
Gunnacao said the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which has prepared alternate routes, would be available on the ground to guide motorists.
Meanwhile, Mayor also addressed public comments made about the photos of police personnel for APEC pitifully spending the night in parking areas.
“We have different billeting areas—including the Quirino Grandstand—because we can’t really accommodate the number of personnel on the ground,” Mayor admitted. Mayor added, however, that “That’s where they’re assigned….[and] we consider their proximity to deployment….to have fast and immediate action…especially for civil disturbance units.”
“They’re sacrificing…for our mission that our countrymen and visitors are safe and secure during APEC,” Mayor said.
Mayor assured the police personnel were given sleeping mats, toiletries, medicines, cellphone cards, and regular meals. The spokesperson clarified that the security deployment only received meal packages and not cash allowances.
Col. Restituto Padilla, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson, also reminded the public that the no-fly zones and the no-sail zones, would start taking full effect on Wednesday in time for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). “Almost the whole portion of Manila Bay is a no-sail zone,” he said.
The no-fly zone would be implemented over the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and 40 nautical miles around it. Even drones are not exempt. “If any [air craft] gets past, it will be intercepted [by air patrol guarding outside the no fly zone],” Padilla warned. SFM
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