Mon, 04 Nov 1996

From: AFP

Fidel Ramos defends APEC security preparations in RP

SUBIC, Philippines (AFP): President Fidel Ramos yesterday defended security measures for the summit of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, saying the country had "the right to take actions if peace is at stake."

Ramos, speaking at the inauguration of the new airport passenger terminal at Subic Bay, where the summit will be held, was responding to accusations of human rights violations and militarization raised by leftist groups threatening to disrupt the APEC summit.

Among other things, the government banned dozens of foreign activists from entering the country during the summit, including East Timorese independence activist Jose Ramos Horta, winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize.

Ramos welcomed dissenting views on issues involving APEC, but said that his government "have the right to take actions if peace is at stake."

"We can assure all APEC delegations, whether government or from the private sector ... complete safety, comfort, hospitality and a harmonious kind of environment that will make everyone more friendly and productive," Ramos said.

The Philippines government views the APEC summit as a showcase and Filipino businessman Antonio Trillo was reported yesterday to have spent up to US$300 million to renovate the Summit Hall, which includes a Moslem prayer room, and to construct a 12- building complex of hotels in Subic.

The 18 APEC leaders and representatives will be housed in 21 villas specially constructed for the APEC summit, a five-minute drive from the Summit Hall.

"Although we are 100 percent sure that the leaders are fully secured, we do not want to compromise their safety once they decide to travel back to their respective villas to be able to pray," said Trillo.

Chefs, waiters, and concierges who will be assigned to the summit have been thoroughly subjected to background checks to make sure there will be no attempts to "sabotage" the leaders' food, Trillo said in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Twenty of the Philippines' leading doctors have been "assigned as full time, close-in physicians" to the APEC leaders and representatives, the report said.

The new Subic international airport terminal cost $12.6 million and was constructed in nine months by a joint Filipino- Japanese venture, Summa Kumagai Inc.

The terminal can handle 700 passengers at any time and is equipped with the latest anti-terrorist security systems and navigational and radar systems partly funded by a World Bank loan, Subic authorities said.

APEC groups Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.