MANILA (Mabuhay) – Government agencies may spend the next few days fine-tuning security arrangements for Pope Francis’ five-day visit to the Philippines next week.
This was after President Benigno Aquino III indicated he was not satisfied with the security plans for the visit.
At a briefing in Malacañang, Aquino cited room for improvement in the existing security plans, the television report said. The Pope will visit the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said that security arrangements for the Pope should be intensified further.
Presently, the security plans for the papal visit are focused in Metro Manila and Leyte, where the Pope is to take part in activities during his stay.
Some 17,000 soldiers and 20,000 police officers will protect Pope Francis during his five-day state and apostolic visit.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said Wednesday the 37,000-person security detail will be the largest contingent deployed for a visiting head of state.
“We are doing this to make sure that the Pope would be able to visit the places he wants [to visit] and will be able to talk to the people he wants to talk [to],” Catapang said.
“It is safe to say that this is [the military’s] biggest deployment so far,” he added.
Some 100 military snipers would also provide cover for the Pope.
For its part, the Philippine National Police would deploy some 20,000 policemen for crowd control and other security measures.
Philippine security forces have had to deal with security threats in past papal visits, including:
November 1970: a Bolivian tried to kill Pope Paul VI.
January 1995: months before Pope John Paul II’s visit, an assassination plot was discovered with a fire at an apartment row in Manila.
For this year’s visit, Pope Francis is to arrive afternoon of Jan. 15. He will stay at the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila.
Catapang said the military would be on red alert nationwide starting Saturday, Jan. 10.
The Philippine National Police, for its part, will go on full alert starting Monday, Jan. 12. (MNS)