Gov’t maritime agencies heighten security efforts for APEC

The Maritime Security Task Unit (MSTU) said it heightened its security efforts for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Cebu starting next month.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-7 leads the MSTU headed by Commodore Enrico Evangelista, PCG commander, with member agencies from the Cebu Port Authority (CPA), Maritime Industry Authority (Marina)-7, Naval Forces Central (Navforcen), Philippine Port Authority, and the Regional Maritime Unit-7.

PCG-7 Chief of Staff Commander Wenzel Azcuna announced yesterday that MSTU preparation is almost complete since its members have already committed personnel and floating assets for augmentation to strengthen maritime security for the said event.

The MSTU, which has been assigned to secure the venue and APEC delegates, will employ and deploy more than 600 personnel from August 19 to September 14.

PCG-7 alone will employ and deploy more than 400 personnel, five CG vessels and more than 20 small boats. The sea assets will be strategically positioned all around Central Visayas.

“Five days before the start of the first meeting, we will already be deploying our floating assets and personnel to ensure strict security within the areas where the delegates will be,” Azcuna said during the forum of the Association of Government Information Officers (AGIO-7).

“We are 95-percent ready. This is a work in progress since we are just waiting for confirmation and assets from Manila and at the same time we try to come up with common deployment plan,” said Azcuna.

Azcuna said the remaining five percent of the maritime preparations includes the continuous “harmonization” of the deployment of units, special group personnel and K9 police dogs of the participating agencies.

Marina-7 Supervising Marine Industry Development Specialist Engr. Jesus Quino has already submitted a list of registered motorized “bancas” to be accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Azcuna said only accredited motor “bancas” can be hired by APEC delegates if they want to tour around or go island hopping.

MSTU does not only secure the venues but also tourism areas in neighboring islands such as Bohol and Siquijor, where delegates and their relatives might visit .

He also said additional special operations group or divers will also be available if some delegates will do diving activities.

NO-sail zone

The waters fronting Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa in Lapu-Lapu City will be declared a “no-sail zone” starting August 17 and will end two days after the last APEC meeting.

Azcuna said the no-sail zone is approximately “600 yards in length from the coastline going out of 500 yards”.

“This area is restricted from any maritime use. Boats can still pass there but there will be deployed personnel,” he said.

He also added that they will conduct public information drive and reassured that the fishermen’s usual activity will not be affected.

Port terminals

Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) is also expected to deploy its 280 security guards to help secure port terminals.

“We are on covert security operation. Our main task is to monitor lawless elements,” Senior Supt. Marvin de Paz of PNP-Maritime 7 said.

“We’re looking into the possibility that the normal operation of our ports and the travel of passengers will not be affected. The security preparation that is being done is for the APEC delegates,” Azcuna said.

CPA Police Chief Insp. Felix Quiamson, for his part, said departing vessel passengers must be at the departure area two hours before their schedule to avoid terminal overcrowding.

Possible threats

According to Azcuna that based on their workshops on security, the possible threats during the summit are sea mishaps, rallies at sea, terrorist attacks, and bad weather condition.

He said that MSTU has also crafted contingency measures in case there will be rallies at sea or any untoward incidents during the meetings.

“While we will exercise maximum tolerance on people who will conduct rallies at the sea, we will prevent them from going near the Apec summit venue,” he said.

A heightened alert will already be issued five days before the first APEC meeting set on August 22.