Among the top terrorism worries among Pacific Rim countries is that a major attack could disrupt the flow of sea cargo and people in the region, crippling trade and tourism, according to documents and a security chief.
Officials are also concerned that the private sector is skimping on paying for counter terrorism measures and relying too heavily on governments to upgrade security at ports and other key facilities for trade, the official said last Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Fighting terrorism has become a key issue for APEC since the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and will be close to the top of the agenda when the 21-member group's leaders meet for their annual summit this week.
A recent survey of security concerns and counter terrorism steps taken by APEC members showed that among their biggest worries were the impact a major terrorist strike could have on commercial shipping and on the movement of people throughout the region, said Benjamin Defensor, the head of APEC's anti-terrorism task force.
Briefing papers on the survey were being circulated among senior officials meeting to set the agenda for the November 18-19 leaders summit. The Associated Press obtained a copy of some of the papers.
In an assessment of members' needs for assistance with counter terrorism projects, protecting cargo topped the list, according to the documents. Ten APEC members, including China, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea, said they needed help with training, access to security information and infrastructure funding.
Other issues that members said they needed help with in the event of an attack included protecting shipping and aviation, energy security and their peoples' health.
Defensor said that despite having security concerns, some private companies were reluctant to fund counter terrorism projects because the extra costs would cut into profits.
"There is worry over the amount that it will cost them to invest more to fight terrorism," Defensor said.
"There is really a gap," he said. "I think it's normal you're a businessman (that) you count in terms of dollars and cents. (If) suddenly you have to spend a little of your profit, a few billions - it turns off the industry."
But the private sector needed to realise that terrorism has become "part of the terrain. It's imperative that you engage in(fighting) it," said Defensor, a Philippines air force general and former military chief of staff.
Security officials warn that a terrorist attack on key ports or vital sea lanes could cost billions in lost trade, in addition to any human toll.
They identify the pirate-infested Straits of Malacca, a narrow 900-kilometer (550-mile) waterway straddling Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore which carries half the world's oil and a third of its commerce, as a potential target.
Washington has warned that terrorists could seize any one of the 50,000 vessels that enter the straits each year and use it as afloating bomb to blow up key ports and cities.