The 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, hosted by the Philippines, concluded with the Economic Leaders’ Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center yesterday. “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World” was this year’s theme.
The event marked the country’s second time hosting the event. In 1996, the summit was held in Subic, Philippines.
APEC is a regional economic forum formed in 1989 to support the interdependence of the Asia-Pacific region. The 21 member countries include Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, USA, and Vietnam.
It was established for the improvement of the region’s economic growth, forging of state cooperation, promotion of trade liberalization, and creation of investment opportunities. It also warrants the movement of goods, services, investments, and people across borders through faster customs procedures, better business climates, as well as collaborating for the uniformity of regulations and standards.
APEC in Manila
It was announced in 2013 that the Philippines will be hosting this year’s APEC. As such, preparations started as early as January 2014, with meetings being held in Bacolod, Bataan, Boracay, Cebu, Clark, Iloilo, Laoag, Manila, Pampanga, and Tagaytay over the past few months.
“As host economy, we can push for some of the themes that should be discussed and then commit other economists to do this,” shares Dr. Tereso Tullao, director of the Angelo King Institute for Economic and Business Studies, in an interview with The LaSallian. He mentions that the themes the Philippines proposed were inclusive growth, investment in human capital, and protection of the environment.
“The summit is the peak of the discussions, because it will be the leaders’ discussions. We had sub-ministerial meetings held in Subic, Clark, Baguio, Tagaytay, a big one in Boracay, Cebu, Iloilo, and then [here in] Manila,” Dr. Tullao shares, clarifying that the summit was not just a two-day affair.
Dr. Tullao shares that one of the positive implications of the APEC on the country is in terms of foreign investments. However, he comments that the lack of infrastructure in the country can impede the flow of investments. “In the ASEAN integration, there is a program for infrastructure development. If that will push through, it will benefit the Philippines and it will make [the country] look attractive to foreign investments,” he notes.
“If they say, ‘Why don’t you do it yourself?’, then it will be more difficult for us because infrastructure developments will require huge resources [and] huge funds,” Dr. Tullao reasons, citing that there is a “commitment for APEC economies to develop infrastructure programs of each economy,” which we can benefit from.
“The same is true with human resource development,” Dr. Tullao emphasizes. Through regional cooperation, he shares that there is a commitment for APEC member economies to develop and close the human resource gap among themselves. “[APEC] forces us because of the commitment to make our policies better and the country more competitive,” he explains.
Dr. Tullao also highlights that development is a gradual process. “We still have to deal with the congress, our citizens, and bureaucracy, but there is a commitment among the APEC economies to pursue this,” he argues. “Because we have trade liberalizations, and there is an expansion in trade and income but the rest of the economies are not included, or only a certain portion of the economy is included, then that’s not true development.”
He also expounds on the theme of the movement of people across economies, particularly in higher education. “The scholars and scientists can move freely. Just like the APEC business visa, you can have an APEC scholar visa, meaning, if you need to attend a conference in China, you don’t need to pay a visa fee and apply because you can move around. There will be more exchange of professors and students that will enhance the human resource development of the region.”
Preparations for this year’s summit started in January of last year to prepare the officials to be grounded and exposed to the major issues facing the country. Tullao highlights, “Our involvement is to support the Philippine government, define what are the themes to be addressed, and what the themes are to be discussed.”
He also discusses his involvements in the preparations in the previous meetings regarding the APEC. He mentions an APEC book that is going to be circulated by the Philippine government. He explains, “One of the chapters there is written by my team of [economics professors here] and that is the role of [higher education institutions].” He adds that it was presented to various agencies such as Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Education, Department of Science and Technology, and Commission on Higher Education, and became a guide in identifying what themes, what programs, and what strategies the Philippines will be seeking in the APEC meetings.
Tullao also makes mention of DLSU taking part in the APEC study center consortium in the Philippines. The APEC study center consortium is a group of universities as well as research institutions from the different member economies that study APEC-related issues. In the Philippines, it is hosted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.