Philippine officials have postponed the summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations because of concerns about tropical storm Utor, which is approaching with winds of 75 kilometers an hour. The move comes as the Philippines is still recovering from a much stronger storm one week ago that left more than 1,000 dead or missing. Douglas Bakshian reports from Manila.
Ambassador Marciano Paynor, of the national organizing committee for the ASEAN summit, announced the postponement to reporters in Cebu, where the meeting was to be held.
"The Philippine government arrived at this decision in consultation with the governments of the leaders participating in the Cebu summits," he explained. "As the leaders participating in these summits are determined to continue with the work of building a caring and sharing community, the Cebu summits will be held in January 2007."
Specific dates for the new summit are yet to be determined. He said that ASEAN ministers' meetings, for which people have already arrived, would go ahead.
Tropical storm Utor is heading for northern Cebu Saturday, when leaders begin flying in, and Ambassador Paynor said there were concerns for their welfare. However, the major summit meetings were actually set for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
The announcement comes just a day after Britain, the United States, and Australia warned against travel to Cebu over concerns of a possible terror attack at the summit. However, Ambassador Paynor denied security played a role in the postponement, and said it was entirely based on the weather.
The Philippines is hit by a number of storms and typhoons each year. It is still recovering from the effects of the Typhoon Durian, a much stronger storm, which struck a week ago left at least 1,000 people dead or missing. Durian packed winds up to 225 kilometers an hour that lashed the north-central province of Albay.
Even weaker storms, like Utor, can cause massive flooding and force flight cancellations for two or three days.
The summit is a massive undertaking and planners expected some 3,000 delegates and up to 2500 media. In addition, a brand new convention center was built for the occasion, roads were freshly paved, and the limited hotel space in Cebu has been fully booked.