Pope Francis’ Manila visit a big security challenge to the AFP
MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines will have its biggest deployment yet with the upcoming visit of Pope Francis next week.
Up to 17,000 soldiers and reservists will secure the pope from January 15 to 19, AFP chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr. told reporters on Wednesday.
It would be the biggest deployment of the military to secure a VIP.
“In 1995, we had an experience that we were not able to control the crowd. We are doing it just to make sure that the pope will be able to visit all the places he wants and will be able to talk to the people he wants to talk with,” Catapang said.
Catapang couldn’t immediately give the number of soldiers deployed during Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1995 for comparison.
The AFP chief earlier said that there would be 12,000 soldiers and reservists to be deployed for Pope Francis’ first visit to the Philippines.
The Philippine National Police also increased its deployment from 20,000 to 25,000.
“The pope will also go to Tacloban. There are a lot of activities, we counted about 44 separate activities,” Catapang said.
All the soldiers and reservists would be coming from Metro Manila. The deployment comprises 7,000 reservists and 10,000 active soldiers.
About 100 snipers to be deployed would be coming from the Special Operations Command based in Luzon.
The military would also be on red alert nationwide starting Saturday.
“This means 100 percent we’ll just be here in camp,” Catapang said.
“We don’t want other enemies of the state to take advantage of the situation,” he added.
Catapang said that no security threats were monitored except for “people surge.”
“Let’s say 1,000 to 2,000 people would want to get near the pope all at the same time, the people in front will be crushed,” he said.
He said a stampede is also possible due to the large crowd.
“Of course. There was a stampede in ‘Wowowee,’” Catapang said, referring to the event of the television show at the Philsports Stadium in Pasig City in 2006. It killed about 70 people and injured hundreds. With Manila Bulletin. FFEMag2015