TIGHT SECURITY FOR WORLD FAMILIES CONFAB ASSURED

Manila, Jan. 21, 2003 (Tribune) - Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. yesterday vowed security for this week's 4th World Meeting of Families in Manila are in place amid reports that some foreign delegates have backed out from participating in the event. Earlier reports said a number of delegates from abroad have decided against attending the meeting scheduled on Jan. 22-26 in Manila, specifically at the Philippine International Convention Complex and Quirino Grandstand in Luneta due to a supposed credible reported of security threat.

"I am just wondering what is that credible threat. In fact, if there is somebody who will announce that, it must not come from them...but it's unfortunate to have such report," Ebdane said.

He also appealed to those who had released the report to refrain from issuing unnecessary statements to avert fomenting general alarm to the public.

He said all security measures for the meeting are already in place with the setting up of a standby police force from provinces near Metro Manila that, he said, are available for deployment.

"We have specific security plan for specific personalities so we don't need to worry about it. But of course other involvement of the community (is needed)," he further said.

Earlier, the PNP activated eight task groups under Task Force Bantay Pamilya which were formed primarily to maintain order during the event and secure the delegates from any untoward incident.

In this connection, Bishop Socrates Villegas, Auxiliary Bishop of Manila, yesterday admitted that the number of delegates to the meeting has diminished but he clarified that the decline in participants was not due to the negative travel advisory released by the US but because of the announced non-attendance of Pope John Paul II.

"In their official communications sent to us, they said that they have difficulty mobilizing the people because the people were less interested (in attending the event) because Pope John Paul II will not be here in Manila," Villegas said.

From the original 10,000 expected participants, organizers said it has substantially dropped to some 6,000 delegates.

At present, Villegas said they are expecting only 3,700 local delegates and about 400 foreign participants from about 72 countries.

Earlier, Tita de Villa, former Ambassador to the Vatican revealed the negative travel advisory issued by the US was among the major factors that had caused many participants to back out from the event, particularly delegates coming from the US.

In the meantime, the personal emissary of Pope John Paul II has arrived in the country for the meet.

His Eminence Alfonso Cardinal Lopez Trujillo, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport around 1:00 p.m. yesterday from Singapore.

Cardinal Trujillo, who is also the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and the organizer of the event will represent the Holy Father in the meeting slated at the Philippine International Convention Center.

Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, together with Papal Nuncio Antonio Franco and His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Padano, met Cardinal Trujillo upon his arrival at the airport.

Cardinal Trujillo said that the Pope was very eager to visit the Philippines again but was restrained by his doctors from traveling because of his ailing health.


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