PNoy orders tightening of security in Apec after Paris attacks

MANILA (Updated) -- President Benigno Aquino III has ordered concerned government agencies to further heighten their security following the terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and in the wake of the country's hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit this coming week.

Aquino immediately convened the Cabinet security cluster.

"President Aquino wanted to ensure that all our preparations are in place and all contingencies have been planned for. As he said, it is better to be over prepared then caught under prepared," said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in a text message to reporters.

The attacks in Paris, which left 140 people dead, came as the Philippines will host the Apec Leaders' Summit on November 18-19.

Valte said the meeting held in Bahay Pangarap, Aquino's official residence, lasted for an hour and a half.

Among those who attended were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmirnto, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia and Philippine National Police Chief Director General Ricardo Marquez.

Earlier in the day, Valte told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan that the Aquino administration extends its sympathies to France for the death of over a hundred people in separate attacks in the Bataclan hall and in several bars and restaurants in Paris.

"The attacks on a concert venue, the vicinity of a stadium, and on restaurant showed not only premeditation but the cruelty that demands the greatest indignation from the world," she said.

"The Philippines mourns the dead and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with France."

Valte urged the Filipinos in Paris to heed the instructions of the authorities and for all the people to cooperate and be vigilant here at home.

She said the Philippine Embassy in Paris is ready to assist any national who will require assistance.

In the Philippines, Valte said the state security forces have been monitoring the situation as the Philippine National Police has been placed in full alert nationwide.

"Our security establishment is already monitoring the situation that is happening and that we will be taking the necessary steps to fine-tune, as necessary, our security plans and our contingency plans for the hosting (of Apec)," she said.

She said Aquino was taking seriously what had happened in Paris as the country hosts the Apec Economic Leaders' Meeting next week.

"I'm sure you will be able to hear from the President on this matter but talagang napakabigat po. Napakabigat ‘nung pagtanggap din ng Pangulo. Ngunit, on our end, gusto lang din po nating i-assure na patuloy po ‘yung ating paghahanda sa pag-welcome, hindi lang po para doon sa ating mga bisita pero para din po doon sa ating mga kababayang nandito sa ating bansa," she stressed.

"We are committed to ensuring the safety of our visitors and our people. This is a message that has been sent not just in light of the incident in Paris, but this is a message and this is an assurance that we have been making since the time that we have started the hosting December last year," Valte added. SDR/Sunnex)
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