Cebu and APEC 2015

By: Fernando Fajardo, Philippine Daily Inquirer: Cebu Daily News, 19 June 2013

For the second time, the Philippines will host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in 2015, following China in 2014 and preceding Peru in 2016. This year’s APEC is in Indonesia. The Philippines first hosted the APEC in 1996 where the association’s Manila Action Plan for APEC (MAPA) was adopted.

The MAPA outlines the trade and investment liberalization and facilitation measures to reach the Bogor Goals and compiles the first Collective and Individual Action Plans, outlining how economies will achieve the free trade goals. In Bogor, Indonesia in 1994, APEC set the Bogor Goals of “free and open trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific by 2010 for developed economies and 2020 for developing economies.”

The APEC Logo

What is APEC?

APEC is the premier Asia-Pacific economic forum with a goal to support sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the region. Members of APEC are united in their drive to build a dynamic and harmonious Asia-Pacific community by championing free and open trade and investment, promoting and accelerating regional economic integration, encouraging economic and technical cooperation, enhancing human security and facilitating a favorable and sustainable business environment.

Whose idea was APEC and who are its members?

It was former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke who thought of the APEC during a talk in Seoul, Korea in January 1989. To make that idea come true, a meeting of 12 Asia-Pacific economies was in held in Canberra, Australia in 1990. These founding members of the APEC include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.

In 1991, China, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei came to join the APEC. Mexico and Papua New Guinea followed in 1993, followed by Chile in 1994. In 1998, Peru, Russia and Vietnam also joined the APEC, raising its membership to the present 21.

Between 1989 and 1992, APEC was mainly an informal senior official and ministerial level dialogue. In was in 1993 that former United States president Bill Clinton, established the practice of an annual APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting.

Leaders of the APEC member-states have a group photo during the final day of the APEC Economic Leader’s Meeting held in Vladivostok, Russia last 2012

In APEC 2015 to be hosted by the Philippines, the following events will be held throughout the year: 8 to 10 sectoral ministerial meetings for two to three days each, five senior officials’ meetings, also for two to three days each and related working group meetings for a total of 17 days. This series of meetings will be followed finally by the meeting of leaders towards the end of the year.

The lucky place chosen as the site of APEC 2015, especially for the meeting of leaders, wil benefit from the attention of the national government which will improve local infrastructure and facilities in time for the yearlong event, in addition to the huge amount of money that will be spent by thousands of attendees, including international media, during the APEC. Because of this, several Philippine cities and regions are bidding to host APEC 2015. Aside from Cebu, there’s Metro Manila, Bacolod, Albay, Iloilo, Clark, Subic, Davao, Boracay and Tagaytay.

Will it be Cebu? Who knows, but here is an observation made by Andrew James Masigan in his Manila Bulletin article a couple of days ago:

“Let’s face it—the only city that’s truly equipped to pull it off right now is Metro Manila. However, Manila is not a feasible choice since it can’t afford to put its day-to-day grind on hold just to give way to the week-long summit. The cost to the economy would be too enormous. Not to call a working holiday, however, will only result in traffic gridlocks and security risks. It’s a lose-lose situation. So on this score, Metro Manila should be ruled out.

“Cebu, on the other hand, is a sprawling city with only 2.5 million residents. It can afford to operate without interruption, even while hosting the Economic Leader’s Meeting. Facilities-wise, it is the second most equipped city next to Manila. They have a proper convention center, an inventory of 14,000 hotel rooms and more than enough points of interest for the delegates to enjoy at after-hours. Sure, the Cebu International Convention Center is too small (it can only accommodate 4,000 people) and is in need of a face lift, but at least the cost to government will not be as great as it would be if it were to build a new convention center from the ground up. In other words, it makes more financial sense to make Cebu the principal host.

Facade of the Cebu International Convention Center

“It is also worth mentioning that Cebu has an international airport with direct connections to the most number of Asian cities. It is also equipped with parking berths large enough to accommodate 21 wide-bodied aircrafts without interrupting normal operations. Not even NAIA has this capability. We hear that most heads of state fly in using chartered planes. President Obama’s delegation alone travels with three back-up jets.

“The ability to professionally organize and mount an event of this scale is another important consideration. To Cebu’s credit, they have successfully hosted several high-profile events in the past with great success: the ASEAN Summit of 2006, The Ironman Challenge, The Davis Cup, and recently, the Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI) Conference. Every year, they also host the largest and longest fiesta in the country, the Sinulog Festival, where close to a million people attend.

“But the most compelling case for Cebu is that they are two steps ahead of everyone else. They recently organized the APEC Cebu Team, consisting of luminaries from government and the private sector, including Ambassador Frank Benedicto, Dondi Joseph of the Cebu Business Club, and Lilu Aliño of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce. As early as now, the APEC Cebu Team is already preparing its Security and Emergency framework, which includes contingency measures for natural disasters, utilities interruptions, terrorist attacks and medical emergencies. They are also expediting the construction of new roads and have embarked on a citywide beautification program. They even secured a sponsorship deal with BMW to provide VIP limousinesfor the duration of the summit.

“Cebu is serious about APEC. They want it… and they want it bad.”

Fajardo, F. (2013). Cebu and APEC 2015. Philippine Daily Inquirer.
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