Philippines responsible for Bush security: Ople

By Veronica Uy

THE PHILIPPINE government, not the United States, will be responsible for the security of US President George W. Bush during his visit to the country on October 18, Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople said Thursday.

"At no time will the Philippines abdicate this responsibility. There is no basis to state that we will be doing otherwise," he said in a statement from Paris, where he heads the Philippine delegation to the 32nd Session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

Bush, however, would be allowed to have US Secret Service agents as close-in security, Ople said.

"The presence of close-in security personnel is reasonable and customary in state or official visits," Ople said. "The presence of these personnel should not give rise to any apprehensions that the Philippines has given up its sovereignty nor should this presence be taken as an insult against the Filipino people, as some have claimed," he said.

Ople, who is the chairman of the inter-agency body tasked to oversee the preparations for the Bush visit, added that apprehensions of some legislators that the US is taking over security arrangements at the Batasan Complex for Bush's address before the Joint Session of Congress were unfounded.

Ople said preparations for the visit "have shifted to high gear." He said administrative and logistical arrangements are close to being finalized.

"As with any good planning, contingency options are being factored in," Ople said. "We hope to announce shortly, and with some finality, the program of the visit."

He said that substantive preparations are also continuing and that the focus will be on the global, regional, and national partnership between the Philippines and the US.

On the complaint of some politicians that Bush will only be shaking hands with the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives when he goes to Batasan Complex for his address before the Joint Session of Congress, Ople said that he would take this complaint into consideration.

Ople added, however, that politicians should be reasonable in their expectations of having direct contact with Bush at the Batasan Complex, saying that "while we would want to accommodate the desire of everyone to have more meaningful interaction with President Bush during his visit, we have to confine his actions and activities to what is reasonable as well as to what is customary for state visits."


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