MANILA, Philippines – When the Philippines hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in 1996, the Philippines was then dubbed as “Asia’s next economic tiger.”
It was a peak year as reforms pursued by then President Fidel Ramos were taking shape.
Nineteen years and 3 presidents later, APEC returns to the Philippines in 2015, at a time when the Philippine economy has become one of the fastest growing in Asia despite a slowdown in its gross domestic product (GDP) expansion in the third quarter of 2014.
At the kick-off ceremony for the Philippine hosting of APEC in 2015, on Monday, December 1, President Benigno Aquino III, son of two democracy icons, vowed for reforms anchored on good governance leading to inclusive growth.
In his speech, Aquino trumpeted his administration’s achievements, saying that major fiscal foundations are in place that will help attract even more businesses to set up shop and expand in the Philippines.
Aquino reminisced that when the country last hosted APEC, the Philippines was considered one of the world’s most promising economies. “In the span between then and now, however, there were moments when many of us wondered if our country’s potential had been completely squandered by self-serving leadership,” he said.
Aquino shared that the revitalization of the country’s business environment can best be seen in the progress of his administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program, awarding and signing off 8 solicited projects.
“Now we are being offered large premiums by companies just so that they can build the infrastructure we need, because of their confidence in the potential for profit,” Aquino said.
Such infrastructure development will be crucial as the country hosts APEC in 2015.
As the APEC host next year, the Philippines will showcase its commitment to promote inclusive growth, which, Aquino said, “has been the north star of all our government’s initiatives.”
“Thankfully, the Filipino persevered. Today, I’m proud to say that, in the past 4 years and 5 months, with the help of our people, we have turned the corner. We have won back the recognition, the respect, and the confidence of the global community,” Aquino said.
The APEC is an annual gathering of 21 Pacific rim member-countries, with the first meeting held in Canberra, Australia, in 1989.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and their contribution to economic growth will be highlighted in the Philippine hosting in 2015.
With the theme, “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World,” Aquino said that visitors from APEC economies will witness for themselves the vibrancy of an inclusive and growing Philippines.
“In Manila and beyond, they will have the opportunity to experience locations around our country that largely contribute to the dynamism and the rich culture of the Philippines. They will encounter our greatest resource: our people, who are kind, compassionate, and talented beyond measure. And they will see for themselves an archipelago connected through a web of inclusiveness,” Aquino said.
Jollibee founder Tony Tan-Caktiong had also accepted from host China the responsibility of hosting the APEC CEO summit, to be held in Manila on November 15 to 17 next year.
To date, APEC meetings venues have been identified in Metro Manila; Boracay and Iloilo City in Western Visayas; Tagaytay City in Southern Tagalog; Metro Cebu in Central Visayas; Bagac, Bataan, and Clark, Pampanga, in Central Luzon; and Legazpi City, Albay in Bicol.
The first APEC Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting on December 8 to 9 in Legazpi City will be the first assembly of member economies as part of APEC Philippines 2015 as they decide on their agenda priorities.
APEC 2015 will be capped by the Leaders’ Summit summit on November 17 to 18, 2015. – with reports from Mick Basa / Rappler.com