MANILA, Philippines – After China’s grand hosting of the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing, all eyes are now on the Philippines which just completed its first in a series of meetings leading up to the 2015 APEC Summit.
Organizers plan to use something else that will make the Philippines stand out: its hospitality.
Philippine Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr, Director General of the APEC 2015 National Organizing Council, admitted to Rappler that the Philippines can’t compete with China when it comes to grandiosity, but said as host, the country will make sure the guests will enjoy their stay.
“We will make sure their stay is hassle free and that they leave with good memories,” Paynor said. “It’s how we treat them.”
True to their word, organizers kicked off the APEC Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting (ISOM), the first of a series of meetings leading up to APEC 2015, with a cultural dinner that featured traditional Filipino dances and Filipino performers.
Foreign Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, also the chair of the APEC ISOM, said guests were impressed by the show.
“The dinner they said was very moving because they saw the passion in our performances. They said we perform with out hearts and I think that says much about us,” she said.
The goal to make sure guests receive a rousing welcome was made clear by no other than Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr, who delivered the keynote address at ISOM. He encouraged attendees “to take advantage of our hosting year to enjoy what our country has to offer” and invited them to see “some of our splendid beaches” and “magnificent vistas during the succeeding meetings.”
“But more importantly, we hope you will bear witness to our greatest resource: our people, who are kind, hospitable, compassionate, and talented beyond measure,” he said.
Weather woes, security
Other APEC venues include Boracay and Iloilo City in Western Visayas; Tagaytay City in Southern Tagalog; Metro Cebu in Central Visayas; Bagac, Bataan, and Clark Freeport, Pampanga, in Central Luzon; and Metro Manila. (READ: 2015 APEC Summit to keep PH ‘top of mind’)
But Paynor said the biggest challenge to hosting APEC will be the weather, as highlighted by the last-minute forced move of ISOM from Legazpi to Manila due to Typhoon Ruby.
“For APEC our biggest challenge? Weather,” Paynor said. “What APEC economy has the kind of weather that we have? None. Taiwan and Hong Kong are in the same path and so is Japan but in their hostings very few of the weather systems that crossed the Pacific really go (their direction) and have a devastating effect.”
Paynor said aside from typhoons, there are also risks of volcano eruptions, earthquakes and storm surges. He said adjustments to weather disturbances will likely be something organizers will need to deal with in the following 24 meetings.
Aside from weather, President Benigno Aquino III is more concerned about the security for the 20 other APEC leaders.
“I’ve attended 14 APEC summits, and its not the first APEC I’m organizing,” said Paynor, who also supervised the 1996 summit in Manila. “The President’s main concern is security so the biggest chunk of the budget goes to security.”
Paynor said Philippine security must also coordinate with the respective security groups of visiting leaders.
Asked which countries would be most challenging to secure, Paynor enumerated the countries in order: “US, Russia, China, Korea, and Japan.” – Rappler.com