Skip to comments.Terror threat shuts down Asian summit: Philippine sources(tempering water supply)
Posted on 12/09/2006 3:27:31 AM PST by TigerLikesRooster
Terror threat shuts down Asian summit: Philippine sources
CEBU, Philippines (AFP) - The Philippines abruptly called off a high-profile summit of Asian leaders, blaming a looming tropical storm even as foreign ministry sources said terror threats were the reason.
The cancellation came a day after six nations including the United States issued a warning for Cebu, the resort island hosting the summit, due to threats of a terrorist strike. Australia said attack plans were in the "final stages."
Foreign ministers from across Asia and other top diplomats were racing late Friday to sign a series of planned agreements before leaving Cebu on Saturday, a day before the annual ASEAN summit was even set to begin.
The government had insisted a building tropical storm in the Pacific was the reason for the cancellation, the first in the history of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The summit was postponed until January.
But foreign ministry sources confirmed a local media report that fears of an imminent terror strike on Cebu, an island studded with deluxe resorts favoured by Western tourists, had led to the decision.
"The threat of a terrorist attack was one part (of the reason) and the other part was the political situation in Manila," said one of the sources at the foreign ministry.
The gathering of leaders from ASEAN and the wider East Asia Summit were put off until January, officials announced in mid-afternoon.
With foreign and economic ministers meeting behind closed doors to race through an agenda of political agreements that had been months in the making, officials said Saturday's scheduled ministerial talks had also been put off.
"It's all finished," said Malaysian Trade Minister Rafidah Aziz. "That's why we did everything tonight."
Philippine Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo said the group's foreign ministers had called off their Saturday meeting, while ASEAN Secretary General Ong Keng Yong said an economic meeting had been annulled.
Officials blamed the storm looming in the Pacific. Two sources at the Philippine foreign ministry said the summit had been postponed due to a "terrorist threat" but did not elaborate.
Two Muslim militant groups, Abu Sayyaf and the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah, have launched several deadly attacks in the Philippines in recent years.
Just before Friday's postponement was announced, an official of the justice department's National Bureau of Investigation told reporters that police had been put on alert for a possible threat to Cebu's water supply.
The official, who spoke openly with reporters but declined to be named, said there were fears that two chemical spills earlier this month may have been test runs for an attack on Cebu's water source.
The postponement also comes at a time of heightened political tension in Manila over the government's plans to amend the constitution.
Leaders of the 10-member ASEAN were to hold their 12th annual summit from December 10-14 in Cebu.
A wider East Asia Summit with heads of state from six other nations, including Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, had been set for Wednesday.
President Gloria Arroyo had hoped that the annual summit of the 10-nation ASEAN bloc would be a success for her beleaguered administration, and her government repeatedly insisted the security situation was under control.
The summits were due to hold days of talks on everything from the fight against terror to a regional free-trade zone, and sign the region's first accord on anti-terrorism cooperation.
Philippine officials insisted the storm could become a typhoon, and that Arroyo did not want to be meeting foreign leaders if the area had been hit hard by the storm.
"We can't say how strong or weak the typhoon will be," said Marciano Paynor, who heads the national committee that organized the summits.
Paynor acknowledged that the national weather bureau had recommended that the summits go ahead as planned, but categorically denied that any terrorist threat was behind the postponement.
"This is a most agonizing decision that we have to make," he said. "The decision was based on this weather disturbance and on this disturbance only."
There is indeed a typhoon more or less directly over Cebu right now.
In all my research on life in the Philippines it was my impression that the Visayas islands, including Cebu, almost never got typhoons due to their fortunate positioning in the lee of other islands.
I believe the typhoon mentioned by Strategerist was projected to just miss Cebu.
On the other hand, most flights to the Philippines go through Manila and that might cause real problems since Manila is right in the middle of the highest risk region for typhoons.
I think only Cebu Pacific flghts go directly to Cebu, and their service is tourist class only, which might not sit well with luxury-loving diplomats.