MANILA, Philippines - Senior officials of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member economies started yesterday the meetings to lay the groundwork for policy direction of APEC 2015.
The Philippines is this year’s APEC chair.
The First APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting and Related Meetings began after a series of more than 30 working group and committee-level meetings of the SOM1 at the Clark and Subic Freeport zones.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario welcomed senior officials at the Fontana International Convention Center in Clark, Pampanga.
“We as senior officials will lay down the groundwork for policy direction of APEC 2015,” Del Rosario said.
Services will be the main focus of APEC goals “because services really form part of the connectivity aspects of Asia Pacific,” she said.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said that various technical working groups and committees that report to the APEC senior officials met to discuss initiatives, policies and capacity-building programs that advance APEC’s goals of trade liberalization, business facilitation and economic cooperation beginning Jan. 26.
He said best practices were shared, and commitments renewed on economic issues such as trade and investment, anti-corruption, customs procedures, health and the life sciences, oceans and fisheries, disaster management, counterterrorism and secure trade, business mobility, electronic commerce, standards and conformance, intellectual property, services, market access, market competition, environmental goods, chemical regulation, and human capacity building.
Within the two-day formal senior officials’ meeting at the Fontana International Convention Center in Clark, APEC senior officials are expected to reflect on the outcomes of APEC 2014 in China, and build on the Philippines’ APEC 2015 theme of “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World.”
Del Rosario said the priorities are also reflected in Philippine priorities and the desired outcomes for this year.
“Today, as senior officials, we shall note all the recommendations made by the working groups as well as consider how to advance initiatives particularly those that crosscut the three APEC committees,” she added.
All the discussions of the working groups meetings, she said, were the four APEC 2015 priorities - advancing the Regional Economic Integration Agenda; fostering SMEs’ participation in regional and global markets; investing in human capital development; and building sustainable and resilient communities.
The Philippines, in cooperation with the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) and the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), also hosted the first of a series of Public-Private Dialogues (PPD) on Services in 2015 envisioned to guide and engage with APEC’s public and private stakeholders in examining developments, challenges and opportunities, and identifying new strategies for building the full potential of the services sector through APEC.
Del Rosario also cited Clark, against the backdrop of the Mt. Pinatubo that erupted in 1991, which remains to be a model of investment and business resilience.
“Clark is proud to have had transformed itself from a military base to an industry hub that is supported by foreign investor confidence,” she said.
The meeting will wrap up today with a discussion on the implementation of the Multi-Year Plan on Infrastructure Development and Investment (MYPIDI), and the APEC Connectivity Blueprint, among others.
The APEC senior officials will meet again at the Second Senior Officials’ Meeting and Related Meetings in May in Boracay Island.
APEC dinner controversy
A sumptuous dinner for foreign delegates of the APEC forum was almost marred by a walkout by representatives of China to protest the display of the Chinese flag alongside that of Taiwan during a dance performance at the Oxford Hotel in Clark Freeport last Thursday night.
Sources who witnessed the incident said the People’s Republic of China (PROC) delegates stood up and aired their protest to event organizers and officials of the APEC national organizing committee headed by Undersecretary Del Rosario.
The Chinese officials reportedly threatened to walk out.
A member of the Sinukwan dance troupe waved the Taiwanese flag alongside the PROC flag and other flags of APEC member countries during the dance performance while the delegates were having dinner at the hotel.
The dinner was hosted by Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda whose family reportedly owns the Oxford hotel.
Sources, who asked not to be named, said Del Rosario asked Angeles City Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan to help apologize to the PROC delegates.
Pamintuan confirmed the incident, saying he rushed to the head of the Chinese delegation to prevent the walkout.
“I told the PROC official that it is regrettable that this thing happened,” the mayor said.
Pamintuan said he assured the Chinese officials that the Philippines adheres to the one-China policy and that the performers were only young artists who were apolitical and not aware of the nuances of diplomacy,” he said.
He said he extended the apologies “on behalf of Angeles City” that is also part of the organizers of the APEC event.
APEC has 21 member economies that focus on trade and economic issues.
The annual APEC Economic Leaders’ meeting is attended by the heads of government of all APEC members except the Republic of China or Taiwan, which is represented under the name Chinese Taipei by a ministerial-level official. The location of the meeting rotates annually among the member economies, and a famous tradition involves the attending leaders dressing in a national costume of the host member.
This year, the Philippines is host to the APEC meetings held at Clark and Subic yesterday and would end today. Other meetings are to be held in other parts of the country, up to the final in November in Manila to be attended by heads of state of the member economies. – Pia Lee-Brago, Ric Sapnu, Ding Cervantes
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