/** reg.philippine: 101.0 **/
** Topic: Asia Times: APEC fever **
** Written 1:54 PM Nov 18, 1996 by Fbp in cdp:reg.philippine **
From: "John M. Miller" <Fbp@igc.apc.org> (by way of "John M. Miller" <firstname.lastname@example.org>)
The Philippine government is leaving no stone unturned to ensure the success of next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila and Subic Bay.
But the monstrous security and logistics arrangements are taking their toll on both organizers and public patience.
Late last month, APEC information director Rodolfo Reyes, a former press secretary to President Fidel Ramos, was hospitalized after a heart attack. Retired General Abraham Paray, APEC deputy director for security, reacting to criticism of public inconvenience caused by the preparation, has threatened to resign.
And last Sunday, an overzealous security guard shot dead a man loitering near the Manila Hotel, where United States President Bill Clinton, Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei and Indonesian President Suharto are booked to stay.
The stress is affecting even Ramos. In a press conference last month, he insisted that Danielle Mitterrand, the widow of the late French president Francois Mitterrand, was dead and thus was not on a list of persons banned from entering the Philippines. (She had been banned in 1994, when she was slated to address a conference on East Timor).
The government has budgeted 387 million pesos (US$14.7 million) for the extravaganza, with the Department of Public Works and Highways spending an additional 167 million pesos to improve and widen the road from Ninoy Aquino International Airport along Manila Bay (Roxas Boulevard) to the Manila Hotel - adding 2,000 new streetlights and Christmas decorations.
And the Philippine International Convention Center, where senior officials and ministers will be meeting, was allocated 400 million pesos for renovations. The vicinity of the center has been cleared of 9,000 squatter families at an undisclosed cost.
To make VIP traveling comfortable, 36 Mercedes Benzes, 116 Volvo GLEs and 110 Nissan Safaris were leased at a cost of 14 million pesos for the Benz, and three million for the Nissans. The Volvos were provided free by the car company.
The Health Department has allocated two million pesos and a complement of 50 doctors and 20 ambulances for the 17 visiting leaders and their entourages.
The private sector has also contributed its patriotic share. The APEC (Phil) Foundation, co-host of the APEC Business Forum, overshot its target of 145 million pesos by seven million. Ramos offered a 100 percent tax deduction for donations to the foundation.
The biggest private donors were from the Chinese-Filipino business community, which donated 65 million pesos - 50 million of which came from six taipans grouped around the Asia Emerging Dragon Corporation. The banking community donated 30 million pesos, while other businessmen provided 57 million.
At Subic, the venue for the November 25 summit, 21 new villas have been constructed at a cost of US$1 million each. Renovation of the Summit Hall and construction of the new five-star Crown Peak Garden Hotel cost another US$12 million, and the former officers club has been converted into a prayer room to meet the religious requirements of Bolkiah, Suharto and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The Subic Airport was also upgraded at a cost of US$12.6 million dollars.
With 17 leaders of APEC economies arriving on the same day, plus regular commercial flights, the Manila airport does not have enough aircraft parking space. Clinton alone will be bringing eight Boeing 747s. So space for aircraft has been arranged 70km away at former US airbase Clark International Airport.
Meanwhile, the general public, who has been told to stay away from strategic venues, is the most affected on a daily basis by all the fuss.
Roads are being widened, potholes are being filled, bridges are being repaired, all of which create traffic jams. Stress and strain have caused drivers to occasionally lose their cool - there have been a number of fatal shooting incidents.
The 30 percent of Metro Manila's 10 million residents who are squatters have been targeted by bulldozers, causing an exodus of thousands to relocation sites. For those who cannot be relocated, white plywood boards have been erected to hide them from visitors' prying eyes.
Not everyone is happy about the arrangements. Employees of several major hotels have threatened to stage strikes during the conference. So have employees of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, threatening to cut communications with the outside world, and Manila Electric Company workers want to darken the city.
Also, several leftist groups are preparing anti-APEC demonstrations.
When the curtain falls on November 25, dignitaries will return to the comfort of their homes and Metro Manilans will go back to their normal lives, where mere existence is a daily triumph.