Homeless out, world leaders in: Manila readies for APEC summit

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, gestures during a courtesy call meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino, right, in Manila on Tuesday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, left, gestures during a courtesy call meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino, right, in Manila on Tuesday.

The Philippines has swept 20,000 homeless from the streets, canceled hundreds of flights and declared public holidays in Manila to ensure a safe and efficient summit of 21 world leaders next week, officials say.

Major streets in the usually chaotic capital are being closed to traffic to speed up the shuttling of delegates to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit and related meetings.

Presidents Barack Obama of the United States, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among the world leaders flying to the Nov. 18-19 event.

They also include the leaders of the other economies of the 21-member grouping, plus the president of Colombia, who will have observer status.

“We face real security threats here…. We have to prevent even the most insignificant incident from happening because that will be a black mark on us,” Marciano Paynor, head of the summit-organizing committee said.

About 18,000 police are being drafted in to guard the summit venues, hotels and routes, Manila police spokesman Chief Inspector Kimberly Gonzales said Tuesday.

The police resources deployed include robotic bomb-disposal vehicles newly acquired from the United States.

Gonzales said terrorism was a much more widespread concern now than in 1996, the last time the Philippines hosted an APEC summit.

“Transnational crime was not much of a problem in 1996 as it is now,” she said.

Nearly 800 domestic and international flights have been canceled on APEC summit week, the country’s commercial carriers said, to give world leaders clear skies and runways at the usually congested Manila airport.

President Benigno Aquino has declared public holidays during the summit to keep millions of students and workers off Manila’s normally gridlocked roads.

Traffic should ease as Manila’s daytime population drops by more than half to about seven million, Gonzales said.

In addition, homeless people as well as street vendors are also being removed from Manila’s streets to ensure the world leaders unobstructed passage, while street protesters have been asked to gather elsewhere, Paynor said.

“It (road obstructions) can be taken advantage of by those who want to inflict harm or at the very least embarrassment to our hosting,” he added.

The social welfare department said more than 20,000 homeless people including child beggars had been taken off Manila’s streets in recent months.

Officials said the homeless were offered money for apartment rentals.


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