'Pope visit is PH's biggest security nightmare'

By Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 06 2015 06:02 PM | Updated as of Jan 07 2015 03:04 AM

'Pope visit is PH's biggest security nightmare' 1
In this file photo, Pope Francis blows out candles on his birthday cake as he arrives to lead his general audience at the Vatican last year. The Pope's visit in the Philippines starts next week. Photo by Tony Gentile, Reuters

MANILA - Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang Jr. called the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines "the biggest security nightmare," as they finalize plans to make sure that the leader of the Catholic church will be safe while in the country.

Catapang said the AFP has been conducting "war-gaming" to test all possible scenarios that could play out during the papal visit from January 15 to 19.

Aside from securing the routes that Pope Francis will be taking from the ground, the AFP will also be giving aerial security to make sure that the Pope is also protected from above.

The standing proposal of the AFP is to make all papal venues no-fly zones during the visit.

"This will be the biggest security nightmare that we can have," Catapang said on Tuesday. "Pero kaya naman natin."

The AFP will also be securing the buildings along the papal routes.

"Di ba marami doong high-rise buildings? Kailangan lalagyan mo rin ng tao yon. The devil is in the details kumbaga," said Catapang.

Approximately 6,000 to 7,000 soldiers and 5,000 reservists will be deployed to ensure the Pope's safety.

But the AFP and the Department of National Defense (DND) said they see no imminent threat on the Pope.

Catapang, meanwhile, asked the public not to attempt to go near the Pope or try to touch or embrace him, as this would create a commotion in the crowd of millions expected to arrive.

"As of now, wala talagang threat na namo-monitor kami," he said.

"Ang biggest worry namin is yung people surge kay Pope. Kung masilayan lang sana si Pope matuwa na tayo. Not all of us can go near the Pope," he said.

Catapang said one of the scenarios they are preparing for is a possible attack by people claiming to be in support of the Islamic State. But he said there is no direct threat as of the moment.