17 November 2015


President Aquino: Slow court action hinders government anti-corruption fight
The government’s anti-corruption efforts would be more effective if the court act more expeditiously especially in sending wrongdoers to jail, President Aquino said on Monday.

President Aquino, in a Dialogue with CNN’s Andrew Stevens, vented his frustration on the courts’ inability to act quickly that affects the anti-corruption fight.

“We have three branches of government. And what I tell the executive which I hold is that: ‘the key to the corruption fight is not the ability to file cases against somebody, but actually sending somebody to jail,'” he told Stevens when he was asked whether he was satisfied with the efforts to fight corruption.

“If we can remove this belief that you can get away, literally, with murder then we will have achieved something. But you now, we are expecting some major decisions on cases that have been pending.”

The snail-paced judicial process has been frustrating for him, he said.

He said that the Constitution says that once a case is submitted for resolution, the Supreme Court has a maximum of two years to decide on that particular case. There are cases that have been languishing in the court for decades.

This also impacts on government infrastructure projects, as some projects being delayed by the rather slow court litigation process.

“For instance, they are not able to give a restraining order obstruction,” he said.

“So the new method was on valuation questioning, the valuation effectively delaying the projects so that some of the targets we are hoping to accomplish before we step down will not be met.”

But the Supreme Court is taking action after it was reminded that there is a law that says it shouldn’t stop government infrastructure programs, the President said.

The President joined top Asia Pacific executives on Monday in Makati City during the APEC 2015 CEO Summit. PND (as)

President Aquino makes a toast on Philippines’, Chile’s prosperity
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday toasted the shared prosperity and deeper friendship between the Philippines and Chile, during the state luncheon in honor of visiting Chilean leader Michelle Bachelet in Malacañang Palace.

The President noted the country’s dynamic interaction with Chile for many generations, as well as the struggle of the Filipinos and the Chileans for democracy.

“Beyond this bond of history, Chile and the Philippines share unique experiences, one of which is the fact that both our peoples struggled to reclaim the freedom of our nations, and consequently, found themselves among the ranks of newly restored democracies. In you, Madam President, I can say, I find a kindred spirit. You yourself experienced what it was like to stand up to a dictatorship, and thus demonstrated the solidarity and sacrifice required to build a vibrant democracy, together with your people,” said President Aquino.

“As individuals who had to endure hardship and exile under our countries’ dictatorial regimes, you and I know full well the terror that tyranny brings. And by regaining our liberties, our function has been to make democracy inclusive for everyone. It is my belief that, if we fail to do so, there might be that temptation for some quarters to return to some form of authoritarianism,” he added.

President Aquino also said that, as leaders, they must always keep the memories of the past and those who fought for the independence of their countries alive.

“Thus, in our own capacities, as leaders of our peoples, we must continue to exert every effort to live out the beliefs that our countrymen are worth fighting for, and that remembering the sacrifice of the past gives us a firm foundation for a prosperous, inclusive future that will never allow tyranny to return,” he said.

President Aquino also noted the resilience and courage of the Chileans in facing calamities.

“Just as Chile reclaimed its democracy, so too have you and your people demonstrated resilience and courage in the face of calamities. Indeed, you have won the admiration of Filipinos and of the rest of the world. And on behalf of my people, I say: Siempre estaremos allí para nuestros hermanos chilenos,” said the President.

“As our nations now prepare to celebrate the 70th anniversary of our warm and meaningful diplomatic relationship, which will take place next year, I am reminded that, while we may be separated by the vast Pacific, our vision for our peoples will never be foreign to each other: a dignified life for our countrymen, the preservation of freedom, and the realization of a more inclusive world, one where no one is left behind. Indeed: Our shared background, together with our shared problems, pushes us to look for shared solutions towards achieving our shared aspirations,” President Aquino said. PND (jm)

Other APEC economies can emulate Philippines’ economic success, President Aquino tells CEOs
Member economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) can emulate the country’s economic success story as well as its anti-corruption efforts to push regional growth, President Aquino told Asia Pacific’s chief executives on Monday.Speaking before the participants of the APEC 2015: CEO Summit, with a theme “APEC’s Inclusive Growth Imperative”, the President said he inherited a morally bankrupt government when he took office in 2010.

The President said that despite a very limited budget at the start of his administration, he immediately carried out aggressive reform and anti-corruption initiatives to revive the country’s economy and restore public confidence in government.

As part of the reform measures, the government undertook zero-based budgeting, reaching out to communities to known their budget need.

“We took advantage of technology to implement mechanisms to aid in transparency and accountability, through websites called Budget ng Bayan and Pera ng Bayan, which mean The People’s Budget and The People’s Money, respectively,” he told the Asia Pacific CEOs.

It addressed the classroom backlog of 66,800 and the shortages in seats and textbooks. The government also reformed the basic education cycle to conform to global standards, he said.

Aside from upgrading basic education, the government also put huge allocation to technical educational program, investing an average of around P7,155 for every scholar, improving their chances of landing a high paying job in the future.

The administration also invested heavily on infrastructure, he said. From 1.83 percent of GDP in 2010, the government increased infrastructure budget to 4.10 percent of GDP to spur growth.

“The goal is to have this figure reach 5 percent of GDP by next year. In fact, now we have to contend with a very different problem compared to what I encountered in Congress,” he said.

The President also highlighted the government ‘s conditional-cash-transfer program to the CEOs, which is the administration’s major thrust in eradicating poverty.

From less than 800,000 households in 2010, the number of CCT beneficiaries has grown to 4.4 million, or roughly equivalent to 22 million Filipinos today.

He said that while this program was designed with long-term effects in mind, the country has already enjoyed early success as a result of CCT.

In fact, this year, 333,673 CCT beneficiaries graduated from high school, 13,469 of whom graduated either with honors or other awards, the President said.

The initial results of Department of Social Welfare and Development’s most recent assessment reveal that at least 1.09 million households have been lifted from poverty, which is roughly equivalent to 5.45 million Filipinos, the President reported.

The Philippine growth strategy hinges on the idea of empowerment, he noted.

“Empowered citizens, after all, are empowered consumers, whose income will go to the goods and services produced by companies,” President Aquino said.

“The end result: Instead of having many big fish in a very small pond, we are moving our economic ecosystem into a bigger pond, where everybody can grow and reach their full potential.”

According to the President, he is sharing the Philippine success story because he believes other economies can do this on a regional scale.

“I believe if we work with each other’s economies, and if we harness the strengths of all our peoples, we can give rise not only to inclusive national economies, but to an Asia-Pacific where our citizens truly know what we talk about when we say ‘growth,'” he said.

“The leaders of our economies have gathered here under the banner of building inclusive economies, and by so doing building an inclusive world.”

At the same time, the chief executive said he believes that if APEC can fully engage the private sector in that mission, offering the many benefits brought about by inclusivity, it can achieve development sooner than later. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

APEC should promote vocational education for higher growth, says international non-profit group
(MANILA) Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies, especially the developing economies like the Philippines, should promote vocational education, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) secretary general Eduardo Pedrosa said Monday.

In developed countries, improvement in the education system has resulted in 5-percent growth.

Improving the education system can translate in an increase of $3,000 per person, Pedrosa said after he presented the PECC survey to the media.

PECC is an international non-profit organization that observes APEC.

More vocational courses for students and training programs for employees would address the job mismatch whereby graduates have different skills sets that employers need.

“Jobs change and the labor market is changing so quickly,” Pedrosa said.

“It is less about specific skills but the ability to learn more skills that will help (those looking for jobs),” he said.

Some jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree, but more vocational skills, Pedrosa said.

The jobs mismatch can also be addressed with more cooperation between the business community that employs people and the education sectors that trains them, he said.

Cooperation, he added, might be in terms of coming up with education and training programs for potential employees that will fit the qualifications employers are looking for.

Germany, which has an exemplary vocational training system, and Singapore have linked up their chambers of commerce and business federation with universities to come up with new courses in line with job trends, Pedrosa said.

The Philippines can do this for the service sector, he said. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

Asia Pacific businessmen cite need for new growth drivers, address rising income inequality
(MANILA) Members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Business Advisory Council (ABAC) has finalized its recommendations for submission to the APEC Leaders to address challenges being faced by policymakers and businesses in APEC member-economies.

ABAC 2015 Chair Doris Magsaysay-Ho, in a briefing Monday, said they expect their “two-fold” recommendations to generate new drivers of growth as well as address income inequality.

She explained that the traditional growth drivers “are running out of steam.”
“Export-led growth is no longer sufficient to drive economic prosperity. The major economies in the region are undergoing structural transformation toward domestic demand led growth,” she said.

Similarly, Ho said that integration of the APEC economies have lifted some people out of poverty but pointed out that income inequality also increased.

“At the same time, we faced challenges to the sustainability of growth with dwindling natural resources, the rising demand for food and energy and ever-present threat of natural resources,” she said.

Ho said the ABAC 2015 have proposed recommendations that include developing new sectors of opportunity in the services sector; the globalization of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); increasing productivity and sustainable use of resources through innovation and connectivity; strengthening of the financial markets; and helping economies become shock-resilient.

She noted that, for one, the services’ sector share in combined domestic output of APEC economies is about 66 percent, accounting for about 52 percent of total employment.

The industry also accounts for 40 percent of value of physical goods, she said.
“The key to unlocking the potential of services as an engine for growth lies in promoting its provision across borders thus, spurring efficiency and increasing availability,” she explained.

The 2015 ABAC Chair cited that hindrances to services trade “are not at the border but beyond the border in the form of regulation,” and these has not been focused on by APEC until recently.

She pointed out the conduct of three public-private dialogues on services will determine where the problem lies and how to address these.

“To generate momentum for the interest that this has awakened, we have supported the creation of an APEC Coalition of Services Organization to provide effective advocacy for the development of trade in services,” she said.

Also, participation of MSMEs in global exports is being pushed as it only accounts for less than 35 percent of exports even though the sector accounts for more than 97 percent of business in APEC-member countries and employs over 60 percent of people.

Ho said problems that bar MSME players from increasing their participation in global exports include complex customs requirements, access to foreign markets and financing.

“(These problems) can be addressed by a robust cross-border e-commerce infrastructure and e-payment systems,” she said.

“And so we have urged governments to take action to create a supportive ecosystem as a major step towards empowering MSMEs to go international,” she said. (PCOO-APEC Communications Group)

Colombian President arrives in Manila as APEC Summit guest
(MANILA) Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos arrived in Manila on Monday afternoon to take part in alliance dialogues during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting from Nov. 18 to 19.

The Colombian military aircraft carrying Santos arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 in Pasay City at 4:25 p.m.

Colombia has been invited as a guest country at the high-level economic forum and will attend the Pacific Alliance dialogue together with the Latin American APEC members Chile, Peru, and Mexico.

Held in the presence of other APEC leaders, this dialogue among the four Pacific Alliance presidents will serve as a venue to identify possible areas of future collaboration and examine the integration process on both mechanisms.

The Colombian President was welcomed by Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Jesus Domingo, Philippine Ambassador to Colombia Tito Saul Penilla, Jorge Araneta, and the Honorary Consul of Colombia Stella Marquez, among others.

Aside from Santos, two high-profile leaders also arrived on Monday — Chinese Taipei’s former Vice President Vincent Siew at NAIA Terminal 1, and Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at the Villamor Air Base.

Meanwhile, Chile’s first woman president, Michelle Bachelet, was the first among the economic leaders to arrive in the country on Sunday afternoon to undertake her first state visit in the Philippines and hold bilateral talks with President Benigno Aquino III.

The Pacific Alliance is a regional group in Latin America comprised of four countries — Peru, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile.

The 21 APEC member-economies are the United States, Japan, China, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. (PCOO-APEC Communications Group)

Government to focus on investment, human development to counter global economic slowdown, says President Aquino
The Philippine government will focus on boosting its investment in human development, infrastructure as well as tourism to offset the slowdown in the global economy, President Aquino said on Monday.

In a dialogue with Andrew Stevens, CNN’s Asia Pacific Editor, the chief executive was asked about the government’s response on the sluggish growth in global trade.

The President said that part of government investment in people is the tripling of the budget for health to shield them from catastrophic illnesses.

The government is also investing on community adaptability in relation to global climate change. There are also thrusts in education, both in the formal and Techvoc sectors, according to the President.

The government is also pouring more money for infrastructure development, he said. It has placed the infrastructure budget to five percent of GDP next year, something that an emerging country needs.

This is already producing opportunities for the country, he noted citing the dramatic increase in foreign tourist arrivals last year. He said he wants to double the number of domestic tourists next year.

“The point I guess that I am trying to raise is: we lost that decade (Arroyo administration), we have so many things to do to catch up. Even our own internal economy will necessarily propel us to even greater heights just to meet our own particular needs,” he said

Manufacturing is also another area, and he said it was an aspirational goal when his government started in 2010.

“But we have had I think for the last two or three years something like an average of eight percent growth in the manufacturing sector even before we have tackled them.”

The administration is also tackling the electricity rate, which is one of the highest in the region. He said they are still working to bring power rates down to a more reasonable level.

And despite the recent global developments, the President said he believes there is so much interest for the Philippines.

“There are those who used to partner with us that somehow forgot all about us that are coming back. There are those who are wondering why they ever came here to begin with,” he said.

The President attended Monday the APEC 2015: CEO Summit with the theme “APEC’s Inclusive Growth Imperative.” (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

Aquino highlights inclusivity as key to economic success
(MANILA) President Benigno Aquino III on Monday shared the Philippines’ story on how the government is addressing poverty with sheer determination to correct bureaucratic flaws.

In his speech during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Makati City, Aquino said his administration’s decision to adopt an inclusive growth theme helped address the country’s poverty situation since a holistic and cohesive national strategy was put in place.

“We knew we had to craft and relentlessly pursue a holistic and cohesive national strategy – one that can systematically respond to every debilitating aspect of poverty, with the belief that this good governance is good economics,” he said.

He said this was done without imposing new taxes although the Sin Tax Law was amended to primarily address the rising incidents of usage of the youth and the poor of sin products and to update the taxes on these products.

Proceeds of the reformed Sin Tax Law benefited the government’s health-related programs and the tobacco industry.

Aquino said focusing on the people — their welfare, health, and education — helped the economy a lot.

He said the move to increase the years of the basic education system and ensure that backlogs on textbooks and classrooms are addressed greatly helped empower the youth.

Ensuring that people also get quality skills training will aid them in getting jobs, thus, securing not only their future but the domestic economy as well since this will serve as among the major drivers of domestic expansion, he continued.

Aquino said the program to invest in education and skills training of poor citizens proved to be a win-win decision, as these people would be able to pay their taxes once they land jobs, and the taxes can be used to “help create even more opportunities for other Filipinos.”

Good governance reforms also enabled the government to have the financing needed to put up necessary infrastructure, which will have a long-term impact on the economy, he said.

Aquino said the proportion of the national government’s infrastructure budget to gross domestic product (GDP) stood at 1.83 percent in 2010 but has risen to 4.10 percent to date.

He said government targets to increase infrastructure investment to five percent of GDP by 2016.

Aquino said that problems lessened as the absorptive capacity of government agencies have improved.

With an improved budget, he said government now needs more skilled professionals to build the necessary infrastructure.

“Indeed, our entire growth strategy hinges on the idea of empowerment. Empowered citizens, after all, are empowered consumers, whose income will go to the goods and services produced by companies. The end result: instead of having many big fishes in a very small pond, we are moving our economic ecosystem into a bigger pond, where everybody can grow and reach their own potential,” he said.

Aquino said inclusivity is the key to attaining sustainable economic growth.

“If we can include our people in public life, in determining the path of our future, and in building our economy, it redounds to a more stable environment and to greater economic prosperity. In other words, it boosts our potential to levels never before seen,” he added. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

Chile’s Bachelet tells APEC: Economic growth should translate to shared prosperity
(MANILA) The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) should trickle down economic growth by addressing inequalities in the region, Chile President Michelle Bachelet said during the APEC CEO Summit here.

Bachelet, at the summit’s opening on Monday, said not dealing with inequalities can pose risks in the economic growth of APEC.

“We all understood that economic growth is essential. And economic growth should be in the sense of shared prosperity,” she said.

“Because if you ask me, what are the possible conflicts in the region, what I can see as a risk is because we don’t deal with the inequalities,” she pointed out.

Bachelet added that the government should improve the condition of its people by continuing investments in human capital.

She cited that in Chile, the government approved fiscal reform that increases the social budget including education to 3.0 percent of its gross domestic product.

She stressed that government should provide quality education that will improve its workforce.

A better labor agenda should also be in place, said Bachelet.

Bachelet noted that democracy in every APEC economy is an essential factor to boost growth in the region.

“Democracy, that means good politics, fights corruption, and increases the capacity of people,” she stressed.

Bachelet will be in Manila until Nov. 19 for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting and for a state visit in the Philippines. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

Colombia is optimistic it will soon be accepted as an APEC member economy
(MANILA) Colombian President Jose Manuel Santos said his country is seeking membership at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) which has placed a moratorium on memberships after complications in the criteria rose.

“That’s precisely why I am here,” the Colombian leader said during the APEC Summit Focus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship that discussed “The Next New Frontier” at the Makati Shangri-la Hotel in Makati City. “We’ve been knocking on APEC’s door for the last 25 years. I hope the moratorium ends, and I hope next year, it would be lifted in Peru and we will be accepted.”

When he was still Colombia’s minister of foreign trade from 1991 to 1994, Santos was already “trying to get closer relations with Asia Pacific countries.”

Still without the membership, the Colombian president said he is “very honored” to be the only non-APEC member economy to be invited to this summit.

He argued that Colombia has a “great future” with “a lot of room” to grow in terms of trade and investment in Asia Pacific countries.

Santos said that Colombia is the “leading country in Latim America,” whose economy grew the fastest last year.

He added that it is also “bringing down poverty more than any other country.”

“We want to diversify. Therefore, for us to get into APEC is a priority and I hope my presence here will help,” Santos said.

Issues regarding the criteria for membership in the organization pushed APEC to issue a 10-year moratorium on membership in 1997.

But by the end of 2007, the moratorium was extended until 2010.

Among the APEC’s 21 member economies, only three countries–Chile, Peru and Mexico–come from South America, while no country from South Asia, including India, the 12th largest economy in the world, is a member.

Other APEC member-nations include the Philippines, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, China, Papua New Guinea, Russia and Vietnam.

Founded in 1989, APEC aims to enhance economic prosperity in the region through non-binding agreements that work to reduce tariffs and other trade barriers in the Pacific Rim.

APEC member-economies account for 40 percent of the world’s population, 54 percent of the global gross domestic product, and an estimated 44 percent of world trade. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

APEC is the place to be – Global political analyst
(MANILA) As the war in Syria is transforming into a terror and refugee crisis in Europe, Asia-Pacific is the place to be, a leading global political analyst told Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) delegates Monday.

At the forum “Navigating Uncertainty,” Ian Bremmer, president and founder of the global political risk research and consulting firm Eurasia Group, said: “APEC is the place you want to be geo-politically…Clearly, out of APEC, everything is going wrong geo-politically: refugees, terror group, five failed states [in Africa]. And there’s going to be more.”

“Everything we’ve seen in the past two days in France and Syria is a slippery slope…And not just slippery, but steeper,” Bremmer said.

“It has weakened Europe,” he added.

Geo-politically, a relatively more stable Western Hemisphere and Asia will mean more investments going there.

“I’m not going to move money that way because I’m concerned,” he said.

Nevertheless, he recognizes that the situation in Asia due to the territorial dispute over the South China Sea creates uncertainty not just in the region, but in the world.

“Asia is a place where you see an awful lot of volatility – with China rising,” Bremmer said.

He, however, acknowledged that the leadership both in China and Japan understand that the issue should be viewed strategically.

“Both (Chinese President) Xi Jinping and (Japanese Prime Minister) Shinzo Abe understand that decisions [to solve the problem] take a longer term,” he said.

While Bremmer seemed reluctant to talk about the territorial dispute in the South China Sea because the topic is officially off-limits, he commented on the issue.

“As challenging as the political relations are between China and the Philippines, both sides understand that economic relationship needs to be strong and they are not going to ruin that,” he said.

Tension is high over the disputed territories in the South China Sea. The Philippines has brought China’s incursion into its waters before the United Nations international arbitral court. Two other APEC members United States and Japan have reacted strongly against the reclamation of rocks in these waters, seeing it as a form of aggression. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

PH bucks trend of economic downtrend, says non-profit APEC monitor
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has managed to “buck the trend” caused by the global financial crisis affecting most Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies since 2008, the head of a non-profit organization that monitors APEC said.

In an interview, Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC) secretary general Eduardo Pedrosa said the Philippines should continue implementing the reforms that promote inclusive growth in the coming years.

“If you’ll ask about the global slowdown, the Philippines isn’t (affected), it is unique. In recent years, the Philippines has been bucking the trend, actually accelerating growth compared to the (general) slowdown last year,” Pedrosa said after a press briefing at the World Trade Center.

“The Philippines needs continual reforms to promote growth, and the benefits of that you won’t see for a number of years,” he said.

For the APEC economies, while the regional economy has been resilient throughout the crisis, the economies in Asia Pacific still need to shift gears and begin implementing structural reforms, Pedrosa said.

“As APEC continues on its path towards regional economic integration, it needs to implement reforms that provides opportunities for all sectors of society,” he said.

From the global perspective, when regions shift gears in implementing structural reform, countries reduce poverty and achieve growth in the following years, Pedrosa said.

When APEC leaders gather in Manila, they should discuss ways to ensure that more people are part of the growth in the region, he suggested.

In a PECC survey conducted between December 2014 and October 2015, respondents from government, business, and academe said APEC leaders should focus on five areas in promoting inclusive growth: provide quality public education; reduce corruption; support micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); provide quality health services; and provide social safety nets such as health care, unemployment, and pensions reforms.

“The biggest gain comes from innovation education,” Pedrosa said, presenting the survey results.

The respondents comprised of 163 government officials, 211 businessmen, 336 from non-government agencies, 291 from academic or research centers, 33 from the civil society, and 12 from the media. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

Philippines introduces APEC strategy for strengthening quality growth to foster trade and development in the region
(MANILA) The Philippines is introducing the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Strategy for Strengthening Quality Growth this year in an effort to nurture the unique relationship between trade and development, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario disclosed in his opening remarks at the APEC Ministerial Meeting held in Pasay City on Monday.

According to Secretary del Rosario, this initiative builds on the growth strategy and aims to further give traction to its five attributes: balanced, innovative, secure, inclusive, and sustainable.

“We see good governance measures as one of the key ways to achieve quality economic growth,” he said.

In addition, the foreign affairs chief noted that the APEC Strategy for Strengthening Quality Growth aligns itself with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The APEC Strategy for Strengthening Quality Growth reaffirms and aligns APEC’s 2010 APEC Leaders’ Growth Strategy with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and builds on it by instituting three Key Accountability Areas: (1) institution building; (2) social cohesion; and (3) environmental impact,” he pointed out.

Del Rosario said that as this year’s host economy, the Philippines is placing inclusive growth at the heart of economic integration.

“We are expanding APEC’s trade and investment goals to include a development dimension,” he said. “In support of the inclusive growth agenda, we look at the role of services as an engine of growth for the 21st century.”

Services make up approximately 67 percent of the gross domestic product in the APEC region, he said, adding that in 2012 alone, every US$1 million of services exports generated 104.8 jobs, while the equivalent value of goods exports generated only 59 jobs or slightly more than half.

“Trade and investment in the services sectors, such as manufacturing-related services, professional services, Internet and ICT-based services, and tourism have a huge multiplier effect and can alleviate poverty through jobs and incomes,” del Rosario said. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

Philippines, Papua New Guinea reaffirm commitment to strengthen cooperation
President Benigno S. Aquino III and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen ties during their expanded bilateral meeting in Malacañang on Tuesday.

“President Aquino called attention to the 40-year friendship between the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, dating back to 1975, and he said the Philippines would like to sustain and strengthen cooperation in the areas of policy consultations, health and medical tourism, investment promotion and protection, and capacity building,” said Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., who also attended the meeting held at the Palace’s Aguinaldo State Dining Hall.

Secretary Coloma said President Aquino noted the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority’s recent conduct of a review of agencies in Papua New Guinea that are involved in technical and vocational education and training.

He said President Aquino also extended the country’s good wishes for Papua New Guinea’s hosting of the APEC in 2018 and noted the Philippines’ assistance in terms of preparations, when two ministerial meetings were held in Papua New Guinea last May.

“President Aquino likewise expressed the wish for increased and expanded bilateral trade, noting that in December 2015, PAL (Philippine Airlines) will increase its frequency to three flights (per) week, complementing the weekly flights of Air Niugini,” Coloma said, adding that agriculture and fisheries are other key areas of cooperation between the two countries.

Prime Minister O’Neill, on the other hand, cited the presence of more than 30,000 Filipinos, a good number of whom are permanent residents, and the valuable contributions of Filipino teachers from such institutions as La Salle and Don Bosco.

Coloma said Prime Minister O’Neill also sought the support of President Aquino in Papua New Guinea’s chairmanship in connection with the COP 21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, saying the Philippine experience would be valuable to Papua New Guinea.

President Aquino said there is a large scope for mutual support, citing the Philippines’ chairmanship of COP 21 countries deemed most vulnerable to climate change, even with low carbon footprint levels, Coloma added.

Prime Minister O’Neill also said the Philippines is one of three major rice exporters to Papua New Guinea and that technology transfer and technical assistance from the Philippines is much appreciated, Coloma further said.

Also present at the expanded bilateral meeting were Cabinet Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr.; Health Secretary Janette Garin; Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda; Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras; and Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad.

In attendance from Papua New Guinea’s side were Foreign Minister Rimbik Pato; Public Enterprise Minister Ben Micah; Fisheries Minister Moa Zeming; Governor Pius Wignti; Westly Nukundi, member of Parliament for Dei Open; James Yapa, member of Parliament for Kagua Erave; Resident Ambassador Christian Vihruri; Foreign Affairs Acting Secretary William Dihm; Trade, Commerce and Industry Deputy Secretary Richard Yakam; Foreign Affairs Director for Asia Samson Yabon; and National Fisheries Authority Deputy Managing Director Philip Polon. PND (jm)

APEC creates conducive environment for small, medium businesses, says President Aquino
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) has in the past decades succeeded in eliminating trade barriers, giving micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) more opportunities, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday.Speaking during the APEC Small and Medium Enterprises Summit in Makati City, the President said that through the lowering of tariffs, the grouping has also been able to increase the volume of trade.

In 1989, average tariffs were pegged at 17 percent but these fell dramatically to about 5.2 percent in 2012, he said.

On the other hand, from 1989 to 2013, the total trade of the Asia-Pacific region has increased sevenfold, outpacing the rest of the world, and likewise boosting trade among member economies, he noted.

“We want Filipino MSMEs to be able to participate more in that trade: we want to help them make the most of the vast market that regional economic integration provides,” the President told participants of the APEC SME Summit.

“In fact, we want to achieve the same for all SMEs across APEC member economies. If MSMEs can be strong drivers of inclusive growth in the Philippines, we believe that the same is true for all of APEC.”

He cited that SMEs account for more than 97 percent of enterprises, generate more than 50 percent of employment, and account for up to 50 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the Asia Pacific.

This is the reason why the Philippines has chosen to make fostering SMEs’ participation in regional and global markets a priority in its APEC 2015 hosting, he said.

The President further highlighted the initiatives that benefit SMEs — the APEC Crisis Management Center, which assists them in coping with economic crises; and the APEC SME Innovation Center and the APEC Start-up Accelerator Network, which promote entrepreneurship and innovation.

Training in business continuity planning is likewise available to help SMEs minimize disruptions to their businesses in the event of calamities, he said.

“Throughout the year of our hosting of APEC, we have broadened our scope and given intensified attention to innovation, entrepreneurial development, business resiliency, finance, and capacity building for MSMEs,” President Aquino said.

“Significant commitments have been made through the Boracay Action Agenda to Globalize MSMEs, which will focus on priority actions in trade facilitation, trade finance, e-commerce, and institutional support to help MSME’s go global.”

The Iloilo Initiative, on the other hand, puts MSMEs front and center by promoting dialogue among MSMEs, large businesses, and policymakers; and promoting MSME’s participation in global value chains and international trade, among others, he added.

“The Philippines has also proposed the establishment of an APEC Trade Repository, which is envisioned to be an online reference on the trade and tariff regimes of APEC member economies, which would be invaluable resource to MSMEs and other businesses,” he said.

The Chief Executive said Tuesday’s SME Summit is another excellent way for APEC member economies to work together to realize the vast potential of the MSME sector.

Through the summit, he said, everyone has the capacity to bring about positive change.

“And, whether we lead governments or businesses, when we work hard to ensure that every person is empowered to realize that inherent capacity, we are creating drivers of growth,” he said. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)

President Aquino highlights importance of small, medium enterprises in economic development
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have huge potentials, especially in terms of creating jobs and opening more opportunities for Filipinos, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Tuesday.Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Small and Medium Enterprises Summit held at the Green Sun Hotel in Makati City, President Aquino noted that since the country’s “strongest competitive advantage” and “most important resource” is its people, the government invested massive funds into health, education, and other social services, empowering them to participate more fully in economic growth.

“Of course, if we are investing in their potential and in their abilities, then why should we not invest in their dreams as well? In 2013, micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) comprised over 99 percent of all business enterprises in the Philippines and account for 63.7 percent of total employment,” he said.

“These statistics alone would be reason enough for government to support the sector, but we see far beyond the numbers. For us, these statistics represent Filipinos opening doors of opportunity for so many other Filipinos,” he added.
The government, he said, has carried out several initiatives to strengthen SMEs in the country.

Through the Access of Small Enterprises to Sound Lending Opportunities, more than P153.1 billion has been released to more than 174,000 enterprises from 2010 to 2014, he said.

He further said that by requiring banks to allocate 10 percent of their total loan portfolio for credit to MSMEs, more than P427 billion has been lent to Filipino entrepreneurs as of last June.

“We want to ensure that they do not just have access to capital—but that they are able to maximize it,” President Aquino said.

The Department of Trade and Industry has also pioneered the establishment of Shared Service Facilities, or common production centers for MSMEs. A total of 1,305 SSFs have been set up around the country as of September this year to meet the needs of different sectors.

The Chief Executive cited 13 MSMEs in Kalibo, Aklan, which are making use of 60 handlooms in an SSF to meet the high demand for abaca cloth products coming from France and the United States; and six MSMEs in Diffun, Quirino that have moved beyond producing gifts and souvenir-type products to producing fresh and dry vegetable noodles from squash and carrots through an SSF.

In Ifugao, more than 750 coffee growers are making use of an SSF with such equipment as coffee hullers and pulpers, allowing them to more than quadruple their production from 230 packs to nearly 1,000 packs a month.

Their market has expanded drastically, with sales increasing sixfold from P10,000 to P60,000 a month, the President reported.

The government also has an SME Roving Academy, which travels around the country, conducting training seminars in marketing, product development, and financing to help SMEs become more competitive.

The participation of private sector partners has helped realize the same kind of success in specific sectors, President Aquino said. PND (as)

Philippines, Vietnam sign joint statement on strategic partnership, amend agreement on rice supply
The Philippines and Vietnam on Tuesday signed a joint statement on the establishment of a strategic partnership, taking their cooperation to another level in the name of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Southeast Asian region.

This developed following a bilateral discussion between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang in Malacañang on the eve of the 27th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting on Wednesday.

Signing the joint statement in the presence of the two heads of state were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Pham Binh Minh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

President Aquino said the agreement “comes at an auspicious period, as we prepare for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Vietnam, come 2016.”

“We believe that the establishment of this Strategic Partnership will provide further impetus to deepen our cooperation, particularly in the areas of economic, agricultural, defense, and maritime engagement—areas that are truly vital to the strategic interests of both our nations,” he emphasized.

He said that through the agreement, both the Philippines and Vietnam have committed to increase their bilateral trade beyond 2016.

“We also took note of the activities specified in the Joint Statement—endeavors that we can both explore to enhance trade and investment activity between us, and by so doing open more doors of meaningful opportunities for our citizens and our brethren in ASEAN,” President Aquino said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

For his part, President Truong considered the signing of the joint statement as “a historic event”, as it marks a new era for cooperation between the Philippines and Vietnam while ensuring regional peace, progress and stability.

“We agreed that both sides should continue to maintain and increase visits at all, especially high-level visits, (and) conduct activities to celebrate the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations in 2016 in order to enhance (the) exchange and mutual understanding between the two peoples, expand defense cooperation mechanisms, and increase information- and experience-sharing in all areas of cooperation,” President Truong said.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, officials of both countries exchanged copies of a signed protocol amending the 2010 Philippines-Vietnam Memorandum of Agreement on the Supply of Vietnamese Rice to the Philippines, which would allow Hanoi to help Manila maintain a stable stock of rice and ensure food security for its people.

During the meeting, President Aquino and his Vietnamese counterpart also shared their thoughts on the recent attacks by the Islamic State in Paris, France that shocked the international community.

“We also strongly denounced the terrorist attacks aimed against the civilians and the ordinary people in Paris… We also send the deepest condolences and our sympathy to the huge losses and casualties, the victims and their families, as well as to the government and people of France,” President Truong said.

“We strongly believe that with the strong efforts, which are (being) undertaken by the French government and people, the terrorists will soon be brought to justice,” the Vietnamese leader added. PND (hdc)

APEC Ministers conclude 2015 ministerial meeting, issue joint ministerial statement
(MANILA) Now more than ever, the Asia-Pacific region needs a comprehensive, strategic, and broad-based approach to confront the challenges and seize opportunities, founded on the principles of accountability, transparency, openness, and inclusion.

This was declared by Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers in their Joint Ministerial Statement issued at the conclusion of the 2015 APEC Ministerial Meeting here Tuesday.

The APEC Ministers convened on November 16 to 17 under the chairmanship of Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo.

According to the APEC Ministers, institution building, financial inclusion, environmental protection, disaster risk reduction, and social cohesion will be critical to sustaining inclusive growth.

“Our innovative, resourceful, and entrepreneurial people compel us to provide them with an enabling environment in which to grow and flourish,” the ministers said in their joint statement. “Our region’s rich natural resources in both land and sea, if managed wisely with due regard for the environment and sustainability, will provide significant means to achieve wealth and economic and job security.”

In their statement, the APEC Ministers expressed their commitment to taking concrete steps and joint actions to foster peace, stability, prosperity, economic growth and development in the region, for a sustainable Asia-Pacific partnership, and to jointly build an open economy in the Asia Pacific that is based on innovative development, interconnected growth, and shared interest.

First, they recommended that APEC Leaders issue a separate Statement on Supporting the Multilateral Trading System and the 10th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference to be held in Nairobi on December 15 to 18.

“We uphold the commitment to strengthen the rules-based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open, and inclusive multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO,” the APEC Ministers said.

They also endorsed for APEC Leaders’ adoption the APEC Strategy for Strengthening Quality Growth, which is aimed at strengthening cooperation and capacity building in achieving balanced, inclusive, innovative, secure, and sustainable growth by focusing on key accountability areas: institution building, social cohesion, and environmental impact.

Likewise, the Ministers reaffirmed their strong commitment to fighting corruption and bribery, and promoting international cooperation in the areas of repatriation or extradition of corrupt officials, asset recovery, criminalization, and prevention of corruption among APEC member economies.

To better combat the harmful effects of the illegal economy and to promote cultures of integrity across borders, markets, and supply chains, the APEC officials encouraged stronger cross-border cooperation and more innovative path-finding approaches among economies, including through public-private partnerships.

They called on APEC member economies to take all appropriate measures to protect anti-corruption officials at the domestic and international fronts, as they recognize their important role in the detection, investigation, prosecution, and prevention of corrupt activities.

The APEC Ministers have also endorsed for Leaders’ adoption the APEC Services Cooperation Framework (ASCF) to provide impetus for a deeper understanding of services and the policy and regulatory settings that will best facilitate innovative, productive, and vibrant services sectors.

They said this will equip economies with the right tools to formulate policies appropriate to their needs, recognizing that open, transparent, and competitive services sectors help create jobs, produce quality goods, harness opportunities for businesses, spur economic growth, widen choices for consumers, improve living standards, and alleviate poverty.

The Ministers further urged economies to fully implement the commitment to reduce applied tariffs on the APEC List of 54 Environmental Goods to 5 percent or less by the end of this year, as agreed by APEC Leaders in 2012.

They also instructed APEC officials to consolidate all economies’ final implementation plans by the end of the year and to publish these plans on the APEC website.

The APEC Ministers endorsed the Renewed APEC Agenda for Structural Reform (RAASR) as the continuation of the APEC’s structural reform work program until 2020, which strives to stimulate balanced and sustainable growth and reduce inequality.

They encouraged economies to work together to implement domestically, regionally, and globally applicable initiatives and deliverables under the Cebu Action Plan (CAP), launched under the APEC Finance Ministers’ Process, to promote intra-regional trade and investments, connectivity, infrastructure development, and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) and supply chain financing.

In their joint statement, the APEC Ministers expressed their commitment to support several policy recommendations in an effort to achieve greater inclusiveness. Among them are the Investment Facilitation Action Plan (IFAP) for a more predictable and transparent investment climate; the Guidebook on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Frameworks in the APEC Region; the APEC Virtual Knowledge Center on Services to increase the transparency of services trade-related regulations, facilitate services trade and investment, and develop open services markets; and the APEC Trade Repository (APECTR) as a one-stop portal for information on trade-related regulations.

Furthermore, they endorsed the implementation a number of initiatives, among them the APEC Principles on the Movement of Humanitarian Goods and Equipment during Emergencies, the Asia-Pacific Model E-Port Network (APMEN), and the APEC Connectivity Blueprint for 2015-2025.

The APEC Ministers instructed officials to implement and undertake work on Rural Development, Inclusive Business, Transportation, Tourism, Travel Facilitation, Internet and Digital Economy, Telecommunications and Information, Regulatory Coherence and Cooperation, Intellectual Property, Standards and Conformance, Food Safety Cooperation and Industry Cooperation. (PCOO-APEC Communications Team)