18 May 2015

APEC News Release

Philippines remains in solidarity with United Nations in addressing plight of Asian ‘boat people’
The Philippine government remains in solidarity with the United Nations (UN) in helping address the plight of runaway Asian migrants, known as ‘boat people’, in accordance with its commitment to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Malacañang said Monday.

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. issued the statement in response to a Philippine Daily Inquirer article, saying the Philippines will deny these ‘boat people’ entry into the mainland owing to their lack of pertinent travel documents.

This is reportedly despite a United Nations appeal to Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand to open their ports and welcome these people, who headed out to sea to escape extreme poverty and political persecution in Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Secretary Coloma said the Philippines, as a state party to relevant instruments, such as the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees,concretely manifested its solidarity with the United Nations k,’ in providing succor and relief to persons involuntarily displaced from their homelands as a consequence of political conflict.

“The Philippines has extended humanitarian assistance to them ‘boat people’ and had even established a processing center for Vietnamese travelers in the seventies. What was cited in the Philippine Daily Inquirer report (on May 18) was a mere restatement of applicable provisions of our existing laws,” Coloma said.

“We shall continue to do our share in saving lives under existing and long-standing mechanisms pursuant to our commitments under the Convention,” he added.

Quoting an unnamed Coast Guard official, the Inquirer reported that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) normally helps out people on board troubled vessels at sea by giving them food, water, and medical assistance.

According to reports, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have sparked outrage by turning away vessels loaded with migrants from Myanmar’s Rohingya Islamic group and Bangladesh, who were abandoned at sea by smugglers. This has prompted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to urge Southeast Asian leaders to “uphold the obligation of rescue at sea”. PND (hdc)

ABAC Chair: Open trade, investment regime in services to boost growth, jobs in APEC economies
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) Asia-Pacific business leaders are calling on the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to adopt an open trade and investment regime in services, in an effort to generate growth and more jobs in the region.

APEC Business Advisory Council (BAC) 2015 chair, Doris Magsaysay Ho, said service-related sectors, particularly manufacturing, agriculture and environment, have the potential power to spur inclusive growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The services sector is the single biggest creator of jobs in the region, accounting for 60 percent of employment. It has become the most dynamic segment of international trade,” she said during the Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) on Services held here Sunday.

Ho noted that freer trade and investment in services offer business opportunities even to smaller companies, professionals and service providers who focus more on domestic markets.

In the Philippines, she said, services in business process management, creative services, tourism, ship repair and fabrication, among others, have become key drivers of the country’s economic growth.

She also cited a report by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) and Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) indicating that the services sector accounts for 68 percent of value-added in the Asia-Pacific region, making it the largest sector in the regional economy.

Ho said APEC member economies need to explore ways to seize new growth opportunities offered by the services sector.

“The services sector are now at the center of a major business transformation in APEC, contributing more intensively to the value chains in manufacturing and agriculture and to the way business trades and invests,” she further said.

The PPD is a prelude to the first Regional Conference of Services Coalitions and Service Industries at the margins of the Third APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting in September in Cebu.

The PPD Series and the Regional Conference are organized in support of the proposed APEC Services Cooperation Framework, a Philippine initiative to guide the APEC’s collaborative work toward enhanced services competitiveness. PNA (ldv)

Government banking on informal education to provide barrio people outsourcing jobs
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) The Philippine government is focusing on informal education or digitized education to give people in rural areas the skills they need to enter the outsourcing job market, a science and technology official has said.

During the discussion on Internet economy, Bettina Quimson, Deputy Executive Director of the eSociety Office under the Department of Science and Technology- Information and Communications (DOST-ICT) Office, said their focus is on non-formal education because changing the usual curriculum would take time.

“That is something which is an open field for a lot of people,” Quimson said during the symposium.

“Non-formal education with every targeted outcomes… The first target, which is accepted by the Department of Education actually, is for people to get a high school diploma because nobody can get a regular job without a high school diploma.”

The new educational system has already upped the ante for most out-of-school youths and people in rural areas, Quimson said, adding that they are given skills training after graduating from high school through informal education.

Those who complete this kind of education could do contractual online work for people in the United States, she said, enabling them to earn a lot more than they normally would, without having to leave home and without compromising their values.

“The focus there is… for them to be given very specific skill sets that are needed by certain jobs,” she said, adding that a higher income for people in rural areas would have a huge impact on the local economy.

Quimson however noted that the current challenge is how to figure out what new jobs would be available in the job market a few years from now.

Teachers must be able to forecast the types of skill sets necessary five years from now so they could prepare their students, she said.

“We have to be more dynamic in our educational structure and the best way to do this is through informal ways of education or digitized education,” she said, emphasizing that the ultimate goal is to give people better employment opportunities and higher income.

The Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC), in cooperation with the Philippines as chair of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum, organized the Symposium on the Internet Economy held here on Monday.

The Symposium brought together APEC senior officials, Internet economy-related business representatives and academics from APEC member economies to build on multi-stakeholder dialogues started since last year.

It will discuss the cross-cutting nature of the Internet economy and ways to coordinate its impact across different sectors and ministries of the APEC. PND (as)

APEC organizing committee puts emphasis on caring for environment in Boracay meetings
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation-National Organizing Council (APEC-NOC) has affirmed its commitment to encourage responsible tourism as it hosts meetings in Boracay Island, a Foreign Affairs official said on Monday.

The APEC-NOC, together with the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Defense, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Coast Guard and local officials, led a clean-up drive along Boracay’s shores last May 13, Foreign Affairs Spokesman Charles Jose said during a press briefing here.

This was followed by another clean-up campaign led by the local government last May 15, and another one being held on Monday (May 18), said Jose.

“This forms part of our overall efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. Since last year, we have been advocating for the use of less paper throughout the Philippine hosting of APEC, encouraging agencies and LGUs (local government units) to instead circulate information through email and social media,” he said.

“In addition, we have partnered with EMotors Inc., a Filipino-owned company and the APEC 2015 green electric mobility partner, to set up an e-trike system to transport delegates between venues in Boracay.”

Boracay Island is hosting the Second Senior Officials’ Meeting and Related Meetings (SOM2), which will continue until Thursday (May 21).

It will be followed by the Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting on May 23 and 24.

More than 1,500 delegates from all 21 APEC member economies have registered for the meetings, Jose said. PND (as)

Philippines to endorse action agenda on growing participation of small, medium, micro enterprises in global market
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) The Philippines will endorse to trade ministers of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) an action plan aimed at fostering the participation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and micro enterprises (MEs) in the global market when they meet here on May 23 to 24.

In a press briefing, APEC Spokesperson Charles Jose said the APEC Action Agenda on Growing Global SMEs and MEs identifies priority actions that the 21 APEC member economies will undertake to facilitate the companies’ access to overseas markets.

He noted that businesses face various barriers to tap the bigger markets abroad, foremost among them are burdensome trade procedures, overly complex customs rules and regulations, lack of innovative financing mechanisms, and lack of market information.

While a good number of APEC activities to integrate SMEs in global value chains are ongoing in the APEC, Jose stressed that these initiatives benefit mostly the medium enterprises.

“The action agenda is designed to benefit small and micro enterprises since this is the sector that needs more support and intervention in APEC. It will provide the right balance and highlight the contribution of SMEs in achieving inclusive growth,” he said.

Ambassador Laura del Rosario, 2015 chair of the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting, earlier said SMEs account for more than 97 percent of all businesses and half of the employment in APEC economies but less than 35 percent of exports.

She said it is thus imperative for APEC economies to enhance the competitiveness of SMEs’ to enable them to expand into new markets.

The Philippines’ proposed SME Action Plan intends to help SMEs and MEs improve their management capabilities, strengthen their access to financing, and foster a business environment that encourages them to access overseas markets.

On the regional economic integration, APEC spokesperson Charles Jose noted that the Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting is expected to endorse the terms of reference of the collective strategic study on the issues related to the realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP).

“The FTAAP has been a long-standing issue in APEC and last year, APEC Leaders agreed to a step-by-step process, beginning with a collective strategic study. The study is expected to be launched this year and be completed by November 2016,” he further said.

Jose is optimistic that many local businesses will benefit from the establishment of an FTA for the entire Asia Pacific.

“Hand in hand, while we are helping the economies through forging FTAs, we also like to help the SMEs and MEs. This is aligned with our theme of building inclusive economies,” he added.

Jose said the APEC MRT Meeting will also be a venue for APEC member economies to show their support for the multilateral trading system and the 10th World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference that will be held later this year. PNA (lv)

Senior officials’ meeting chair to APEC economies: Create environment conducive to digital economy or get left behind
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) The 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) are working to promote a policy and regulatory environment conducive to Internet use that impacts on their economic growth.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, who chairs the APEC 2015 Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM), said it is imperative for APEC economies to seize the benefits of the information communications technology (ICT) in a digital economy.

Del Rosario said the benefits attributed to Internet or digital economy, access to finance, health, education, services and solutions, and increased innovation require “both disruptive and creative policy response.”

“Those economies that don’t undertake the necessary investment and promotions policy together are going to be left further behind and their citizens further challenged,” she said during the Symposium on the Internet Economy held here Monday.

Del Rosario noted that the policy and regulatory environment for Internet economy remains in transition.

“One principle needs to be finding a balance between objective, protecting consumer interest, and encouraging innovation versus overly restrictive policies,” she said.

Del Rosario added that restrictive policies discourage innovation in this area and add costs, especially for smaller businesses.

“Regional, if not international, cooperation is an imperative, the Internet economy is borderless,” she said.

The Philippines is hosting 31 APEC meetings all over the country this year. PNA (lv)