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Philippines Says Everything Ready for ASEAN Summit

A month late, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, will hold its annual summit next week in the Philippines. The meeting, from January 10 to 15th, was postponed in December, when a typhoon threatened to strike the summit city. Douglas Bakshian has more from Manila.

The Philippine government says all is ready - again - for the ASEAN summit next week. Sixteen heads of government - from the 10 ASEAN governments and from regional neighbors - will be attending.

The government canceled the gathering in mid-December at the last minute, when a typhoon threatened Cebu, the city where the gathering is being held.

There was also an apparent terrorist threat. Shortly before the meeting, several Western embassies warned that Islamic militants might be in the final stages of planning attacks in the Philippines. However, Manila denied security was the reason for the postponement.

Nevertheless, there were doubts in some quarters, and several officials from around the region said they thought security was a significant factor in the postponement.

Summit spokesman Victoriano Lecaros says all is ready for the gathering.

"It's all systems go," he said. "And the way I feel is that we are ready to have it even tomorrow."

Security officials say there are no specific terror threats to the summit. And authorities say they are ready for potential problems.

"We are prepared as far as terrorist activity is concerned," said General Silverio Alarcio who commands the police task force on Cebu. "We have been rehearsing since December contingency plans, particularly on incident management and evacuation of the delegates."

A number of resolutions on key issues are to be adopted at the gathering. One is a legally binding convention on counter-terrorism that would allow ASEAN countries to exchange information to better track suspected terrorists.

Another project is a proposal for a charter that would give the organization a stronger legal basis and allow it to better enforce its agreements.

The delegates will not adopt the proposal at this summit, spokesman Lecaros says, but its introduction is a big development.

"There is for the first time, a presentation of the framework or a blueprint for an ASEAN charter. This is really something new," he said. "This is a giant leap."

In its early years, ASEAN had only six countries and ran on a consensus basis, with all members agreeing on proposals. But the group is in its 39th year, with 10 members of widely different wealth and development, and so requires better organization.

Besides the 10 ASEAN nations, Australia, China, Japan, India, South Korea and New Zealand will take part in the summit.