Palace Declares Jan 12 and 15 As Asean Summit Holidays

Sun.Star [Philippines]
January 5, 2007

Cebu City -- Malacaņang declared Jan. 12 and 15 as special non-working holiday for the Southeast Asian summit, an arrangement that a Mactan-based exporter says will provoke "less resistance" from the sector.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita signed Presidential Proclamation 1208 declaring Jan 12 and 15 as special non-working holiday for government offices and academic institutions in the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue.

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The declaration is part of the government's preparations for the 12th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Philippine Ambassador to the Asean Marciano Paynor Jr., who heads the local committee, said all countries already agreed to the summit dates of Jan. 12 to 15.

The leaders' and the East Asia summits will be preceded by a series of meetings by senior officials, economic ministers and foreign ministers.

Some officials will arrive on Jan. 8, although the heads of states and governments are scheduled to arrive on the morning of Jan. 12 and start meeting that afternoon.

Sixteen Asian heads of state have confirmed their participation in next week's regional summit, and the host promised Thursday that no typhoon or terror threats will postpone the events for a second time.

The annual conference hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations was originally scheduled for Dec. 11-13 in the central city of Cebu, but the Philippine government, citing an approaching typhoon, abruptly rescheduled even as foreign ministers started to arrive.

The decision to delay the summit meetings surprised many delegates.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen suggested the threat may have been twofold: the typhoon and terrorism. Japanese Trade Minister Akira Amari called the typhoon explanation "extremely puzzling" and said the postponement had undermined the Philippines' credibility.

But the dust settled quickly and, despite initial uncertainty, the Philippines said all delegates have confirmed they will return to Cebu for summit meetings of the 10 ASEAN countries plus partners from Australia, China, Japan, India, South Korea and New Zealand.


A holiday declaration for two days will provoke "less resistance" from exporters, who at least have a larger volume and more working days in January to look forward to, an official said Thursday.

"It doesn't really matter. Because of the enlarged volume, whether it's a holiday or not on those days, we will still work," Porferio Montesclaros told Sun.Star Cebu by phone Thursday.

Montesclaros is the secretary and a board member of the Mactan Export Processing Zone Chamber of Exporters and Manufacturers (Mepzcem).

Mepzcem, along with the Cebu and Mandaue Chambers of Commerce and Industry, previously submitted a position paper asking Malacaņang to limit last December's 4-day summit holiday to the schools.

Montesclaros explained that December is usually less productive than January for exporters, so a two-day holiday this month "would not hurt as much." He added, however, that Mepzcem has yet to formally discuss the proposal. The organization has 130 member-companies.

As of Thursday, the summit organizers counted 52 more meetings that will be held both in the Shangri-la Mactan and the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC), although the number is "not cast in stone" and there could still be last-minute changes.

Paynor also refused to disclose specific venues of specific meetings for security reasons.

No threat

But they all stressed they have not received any specific threat against the summit, although all summits have to contend with the issue.

Asean assistant secretary general for security Leo Alvez, however, disclosed that they will not deploy additional security personnel for the summit.

They will be operating with the same number of personnel had the summit pushed through in December.

"The threat is always there, anything can always happen anytime, so the public must help in monitoring. With the help of the people, I'm sure we can prevent incidents," said Alvez, adding that they were doing their jobs even during the holidays.

Paynor also said that the sub-committee on security is doing its best and will continue to their work "amid frustration over the postponement."

The need to beautify some more the center islands and to repair defective lampposts was discussed at length yesterday, and organizers concluded the issue is "no more serious than all the other problems" that organizers are facing, said Paynor.

"We will repaint. We will put in fresh flowers and plants. They will be there (on Jan. 7)," he said.


Paynor also believes that the Sinulog festivities will be a "positive way of showing that the Philippines is not just a regular tourist destination" as it will highlight the Cebuano and Christian culture.

Dry runs of individual delegations will start any time now but the main dry run for the use of the ceremonial route will be on Jan. 9.

The ceremonial route will not be closed for the whole day but only for 20 or 30 minutes each time a convoy passes through. Paynor does not see any major hitches for the summit.

"Now is the time to really show the world why Cebu was chosen as the venue. We will make our country proud. I exhort all Cebuanos to work doubly hard to ensure the success of the summit, whether they have specific tasks or support us in prayer," said Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, committee co-chairperson.

Malacaņang assured it is safe to hold the summit in Cebu this month, although there is no such thing as an absolute guarantee.

The Palace was reacting to reports that Australia, Canada and other governments have warned that "anywhere outside Metro Manila" would not be safe as a summit venue.


"We have faced some challenges before in the hosting of international events but for this particular summit, we believe that we can hold it at its proposed site in Cebu," said presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye.

He said the nine other Asean leaders who are attending the summit have made their independent assessment and have decided to attend, which is a vote of confidence in the Philippines.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said there were no specific terror threats, unlike last month when the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand issued travel advisories warning that al-Qaeda-linked militants "may be in the final stages" of planning attacks in the Philippines.

"Everything is set for the summit. All the states have confirmed their participation," said Luis Cruz, assistant foreign secretary for Asean affairs.

"Everybody is saying that they are better prepared now in terms of security, traffic and other aspects of the preparation with the extra month," said Lecaros. "All systems are go."(With AP, Sunnex & IDA)


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