Manila ready for Bush visit, says Malacaņang

SECURITY forces are on alert for threats that could disrupt US President George W. Bush's whistle-stop visit to Manila on Oct. 18, a spokesperson for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Wednesday.

"We cannot deny that there are people and parties that may want to spoil the visit of the President of America by carrying out some disruptive activities. We have readied the police and the whole country to prevent and counter these plans," deputy presidential spokesperson Ricardo Saludo said without naming any suspects.

The President's top security adviser said there was no specific threat against Bush and his party. "We're ready for him, and so far, we haven't received any specific threat against him. We really want his visit to be safe and be a big success," National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said.

Golez added that the military and police had been closely coordinating for the past few weeks with American security agents already here in the Philippines in preparation for the state visit.

The shortcomings of security in the Philippines were highlighted by an incident on Tuesday when one of several Abu Sayyaf Muslim guerrillas held at the national police headquarters staged a bloody escape attempt.

The rebel was shot dead after he killed three policemen and wounded three others.

Despite the incident, which put into question the local authorities' capability to ensure security for the world's most powerful leader, Malacaņang expressed confidence that the state visit would go on as scheduled.

Saludo said there was no indication that the US government would cancel or cut short his eight-hour visit to Manila as a result of the incident.

To prevent further incidents, national police chief Hermogenes Ebdane said all police prisoners would be immediately transferred to a main police "custodial center."

In a statement after the hostage fiasco, the President said greater discipline and proactive measures were in order to prevent further incidents. Critics have blamed lax security for the attempted prison break.


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