APEC member countries to strengthen ‘Cebu Action Plan’

MANILA, Philippines – There is a great necessity for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries to forge strategies against the negative economic implications of natural disasters, the Philippines' national treasurer said.

The region is not immune from economic shocks, as its geographic location makes it highly vulnerable to the damaging impact of natural disasters, National Treasurer Roberto Tan said in his opening remarks at the APEC Finance and Central Bank Deputies' Meeting on Thursday, March 5.

Tan cited estimates that 70% of the natural disasters that occurred from 2003 to 2013 hit Asia-Pacific. The region bears about $68 billion in annual losses from natural disasters.

With the Cebu Action Plan as a key agenda in the APEC Finance Ministers' Process this year, APEC member countries can forge inclusive economies, Tan said. This can be done through financial integration, transparency, and resiliency, as well as infrastructure development and financing. 

The finance and central bank deputies are set to fine tune the Cebu Action Plan, leading to its official launch during the APEC Finance Ministers' Meeting in September in Cebu City.

The Philippines first put the roadmap on the table for APEC discussion during a special meeting of senior finance officials held in Clark, Pampanga, in January.

While the original version had 3 pillars, the latest version following the meeting in Clark now consists of 4 pillars:

The 4th and last pillar was the addition.

"The Cebu Action Plan is designed to power our shared future with the right foundations: the growing populations of our member economies stand to benefit from a more open, transparent, and resilient region with the infrastructure it needs to sustain inclusive growth trajectories," Finance Secretary Gil Beltran said in his welcome remarks.

Efforts

As the global economy recovers, the Asia-Pacific region is seen as an engine of growth, Tan said.

For 2015, growth in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to accelerate to 4.3% from 3.9% in 2014. Despite this, growth divergence is still evident.

"This growth divergence among economies necessitates greater linkages in trade and investments such that the growth momentum may carry over throughout the region," he added.

While efforts to boost inclusivity and economic resiliency are ongoing across the region, delegates agreed that more needs to be done. 

Tan said the financial interconnections of APEC economies and their close linkage to the global financial market makes the Asia-Pacific region exposed to the risk of a global market liquidity dry-up and other market volatilities.

In the case of the Philippines, some of the responses to the call for a more inclusive economy are regulations that improve accessibility of credit to micro, small, and medium enterprises, as well as increase in allocations for social services. 

"As such, APEC economies must also build buffers to protect it from these financial market disturbances," he said.

Population growth and growing urbanization have also been a phenomenon observed in the region, Tan noted.

"This creates a greater requirement for infrastructure to sustain economic activity and preserve or improve the quality of life across economies," Tan said.

Meeting financing requirements and ensuring high project quality remain a challenge for infrastructure development, the national treasurer added.

Thus, the finance and central bank deputies are discussing specific measures to be undertaken to achieve each pillar. These measures will be presented to finance ministers of APEC member economies for approval. – Rappler.com