President Aquino sees continued PHL progress with APEC Leaders’ support

By Jelly F. Musico

MANILA, Nov. 19 (PNA) – President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday expressed optimism that the Philippines will continue its progress “for years, if not generations to come” due to the support demonstrated by the Asia Pacific Economic Leaders (APEC) head of states.

In his press statement after the 2015 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center, President Aquino also thanked his fellow APEC Economic Leaders for praises and good things they said about the Philippines as host of this year’s APEC Summit.

”All my fellow leaders heaped praise on how our people have welcomed them, and their words really made me swell up with pride,” President Aquino said in a press statement he delivered at the International Media Center at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

”Truly, it is a singular honor to lead such a great people. I am certain that, with your continued support, there is absolutely no doubt that the Philippines will continue its progress for years, if not generations to come,” he added.

President Aquino also thanked “those who worked tirelessly to make this event possible.”

”Most importantly, I am grateful to our countrymen who have expressed their support for our hosting,” the President said.

President Aquino said he felt honored for the success as hosts of the 2015 APEC by laying the foundations on which APEC “can chart a course to improve trade and strengthen quality growth.”

”I thank my fellow APEC Leaders for their collaborative efforts and positive spirit as we worked together towards the goals that we share, and our cooperation gives us optimism that we can achieve greater progress sooner rather than later,” the President said.

For the past two days, the APEC leaders discussed the critical regional and global issues that they face as one Asia-Pacific region.

”If past APEC meetings were highly technical discussions on trade issues, the discussions over the past couple of days have taken a broader approach,” President Aquino said.

He said the economic leaders sought to address the challenges presented by the ever-changing global economic milieu.

”For instance, we shared ideas on how to encourage technological innovation, while at the same time easing its disruptive effects on the job market by giving rise to more resilient economies,” President Aquino said.

”We have likewise been able to exchange ideas on how to foster greater inclusivity in our economies. Since inclusive growth has always been the guiding principle of our administration, we are proud to have put this approach front and center throughout our hosting APEC this year,” he added.

President Aquino said through the years, representatives from all member economies held 229 meetings “to advance our individual economies and the region at large.”

”During this time, we have seen our locales lend their names to strategies that will help empower small and medium enterprises, among others,” he said.

The President cited the Boracay Action Agenda which will help micro, small, and medium enterprises access the global and regional markets.

He also mentioned the Cebu Action Plan which will widen entrepreneurial access to financial markets, hoping to lower the cost of remittances.

”Apart from this, our representatives also finalized the Renewed APEC Agenda for Structural Reform, which will guide economies on which areas they need to reform to achieve sustained growth; as well as the Disaster Risk Reduction Framework, which recognizes the impact of climate change on our region. This framework aims to minimize losses and promote best practices so that we can build back better,” the President said.

On the final day of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, the world economic leaders agreed to adopted the APEC Strategy for Strengthen Quality Growth.

”This is a framework that will guide us in undertaking robust, comprehensive, and ambitious structural reforms over the next five years. We will focus our reform efforts, and measure our progress, in terms of institution building, social cohesion, and environmental impact,” President Aquino said.

”We do this with the awareness that the world economy continues to confront significant risk and uncertainty, even as trade growth is slowing down, thus impressing upon all of us, the need to tap into new opportunities for economic growth. This strategy will help APEC promote increased growth through structural reform,” he added.

President Aquino said the economic leaders also approved the APEC Services Cooperation Framework.

”The services sector is becoming a more important part of the economic equation. It makes up approximately two-thirds of the GDP in the APEC region, and we need to put more emphasis and thought into making this sector even more competitive. This Framework will lead to a goal-driven roadmap for us to achieve over the next decade, to help the sector thrive,” he said.

President Aquino said the hosting of APEC gave the Philippines the opportunity to meet not only the leaders of economies but also the private sector to which “we have taken existing partnership to a new level.”

During his bilateral meeting with Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto, President and Nieto agreed to work together to combat drug trafficking “which is common concern of our peoples.”

The President also met with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to discuss the Philippines’ assistance in supporting Papua’s agricultural sector.

President Aquino also formalized strategic partnership with Vietnam and comprehensive partnership with Australia.

”Moving forward, the areas in which we will work more closely together include defense, disaster risk reduction, and food security. We also engaged in dialogue with the Pacific Alliance, which is timely, given their high growth potential and ours,” President Aquino said.

The President also noted a number of leaders including United States President Barack Obama who expressed their support for the Philippines joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership “once it comes into force.”

”This is a very encouraging sign; we of course want to join the TPP because it offers access to a far larger market. The USA and Australia, among other economies, expressed their support for this particular endeavor,” the President said.

During his bilateral meeting with Obama, President Aquino thanked the US for turning over to the Philippines a research vessel and a coast guard cutter which will boost the capability of the Philippine Navy.

Over the past week, President said the country welcomed more than 11,000 people, including those from the APEC Business Advisory Council which traces its origins to the APEC Summit in Subic in 1996.

”This number is more than double the attendance of our previous hosting. In fact, when we said yes to hosting, it was with the expectation that all the facilities in construction at the time—both public and private—would be finished by the time we had to welcome our guests,” President Aquino said.

”Apart from the fact that, as a general rule, each one of these visitors creates one new job for us; they have also now seen our country and met our people. In other words, they have discovered that the Philippines not only works, but it is indeed more fun,” he added.

This year’s APEC theme was entitled “Building Inclusive Economics, Building a Better World: A Vision for an Asia-Pacific Community.”

The APEC member countries include: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam.

In their 23rd Declaration, the APEC economic leaders “strongly” condemned all acts of terrorism particularly terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut and against Russian aircraft.

”We will not allow terrorism to threaten the fundamental values that underpin our free and open economies. Economic growth, prosperity, and opportunity are among the most powerful tools to address the root causes of terrorism and radicalization. We stress the urgent need for increased international cooperation and solidarity in the fight against terrorism,” stated in the Manila APEC Declaration.

The APEC leaders’ 23rd Declaration also focused on world economy, fighting poverty and climate change.

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos, who held bilateral meeting with President Aquino, also came as an observer of APEC.

Peru will host the next APEC Summit in 2016. (PNA)