02 September 2015

APEC News Releases

Cebu’s hospitality, tourism industries gain from APEC meetings, says tourism official
(CEBU CITY, Cebu) Cebu province’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings this year is bringing economic and job benefits to its hospitality and tourism industries, as well as its small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a tourism official has said.

“We are expecting 2,300 delegates. The minimum expenditure of one APEC delegate, excluding the accommodation, is about $100 a day,” Department of Tourism Region 7 Director Rowena Montecillo said during a press briefing here Tuesday.

Montecillo said her office tour desk has reported 49 tours for some 107 delegates, who spent an average of P2,500 to P3,000 per person.

“That will be P250,000 to P300,000 sales for our tour consortium until yesterday (Monday),” she said.

Montecillo said local tourism enterprises are gaining directly and indirectly from the APEC meetings.

“Some of the hotels, especially the four venue hotels, will have to hire additional people to assist them when it comes to housekeeping, serving (waiters) and other frontline services,” she said.

Moreover, the tourism official said, local producers are gaining sales from APEC delegates.

The exhibit dubbed as ‘Exquisitely Filipino’, featuring the province’s fashion accessories, furniture and office and home furnishings, among others, is ongoing at SM Cebu.

“I think the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) is expanding the trade hall. There will be additional 20 to 30 more suppliers,” Montecillo added. PNA (ldv)

Palace warns traffic law enforcers against demanding ‘kotong’
The Palace on Wednesday warned traffic law enforcers against extorting money or “kotong” from motorists.

“Kung may magko-kotong, don’t hesitate to tell us. We will not tolerate wang-wang sa daan. We will not tolerate wang-wang ng mga kahit sino sa gobyerno. So, kung mayroong manghihingi ng kotong, please don’t hesitate to tell us, our media friends. We will give you a number so that you can report these,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said during a press briefing in Malacañang.

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Tuesday ordered the deployment of the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group (PNP HPG) to serve as the lead traffic law enforcement agency on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). This has prompted fears of a rise in the incidence of police officers extorting money from motorists, as what happened in the past.

“Certainly, we will not tolerate corruption. That should not be another avenue for corruption on the part of public officials,” he added.

When asked how the government would deal with traffic law enforcers engaged in “evidence planting”, Secretary Lacierda said safety measures are already in place to prevent this.

“I believe that EDSA is covered with CCTVs. So I think that I s, at the very least, a protection for our motorists,” he said, noting that video footages of any wrongdoing done by “any agent of authority” will be used as evidence against him or her.

He also encouraged motorists to use the cameras on their cellphones to record corrupt practices or crimes committed by traffic law enforcers.

“Kung may ganyang klaseng bagay, pwedeng kunan ng litrato, ipadala niyo sa mga ahensya at iimbestigahan ‘yan. Paalala na rin sa ating mga kawani na maraming mga matang nakatingin kaya ang trabaho natin bilang members of government is magtrabaho nang maayos, lalo na sa trapiko. Hindi para gawing pagkakataon ito na pagkakitaan,” he said.

The HPG has been tasked to ease traffic congestion in six major intersections along EDSA. These “choke points” are the intersections of Balintawak, Cubao, Ortigas, Shaw Boulevard, Guadalupe, and Taft Avenue. PND (ag)

APEC member economies see extremism as a major threat
(CEBU CITY, Cebu) Delegates who attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting on counter-terrorism here have recognized the threat posed by extremism to the region’s economic growth.

In his closing remarks delivered after the meeting on Wednesday, Chairman of the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group (CTWG), Acting Executive Director Oscar Valenzuela, noted that the topics of extremism and foreign terrorist fighters came up during the meeting.

“We are one with Russia in saying that the foreign terrorist fighter threat cuts across the four activity areas of our Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy,” Valenzuela said.

“We are therefore encouraging the economies to propose activities to address this.”

The issue, he said, is important and timely as evidenced by the contributions and comments made by APEC participants who joined the discussions.

Valenzuela said the participants will wait for Indonesia’s proposal under Business Resilience and Recovery, as they would like to bring home takeaways from Indonesia’s experience in the Bali and the Jakarta bombings.

He also encouraged APEC delegates to look back at the lessons they have learned during the meeting on terrorism and from the Foreign Terrorist Fighter Workshop held last Monday (August 31).

“We must be able to apply them in our own economies. It is also hoped that this issue would be discussed more thoroughly,” he said.

According to Valenzuela, the threat of terrorism is very real, and it results in lives lost, broken families, and destroyed communities.

Terrorism compels people to live in harsh conditions, fearing for their lives, and many are forced into isolation as they flee their homes, he said, adding that historical and cultural treasures are also being systematically destroyed by extremists.

“Our meeting may have now come to an end. But it is hoped that we continue to build on our successes. We continue to build our ties and the relationships between our economies,” Valenzuela told the APEC delegates.

The delegates met in Cebu for the sixth meeting of the Counter-Terrorism Working Group. PND (as)

President Aquino has no regrets appointing Ombudsman Morales, says Palace official
Malacañang on Wednesday said President Benigno S. Aquino III is not sorry for appointing Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President appointed Carpio-Morales because “he wanted an independent individual to head that office”.

“When the President appointed Ombudsman Carpio-Morales, he stated very categorically that he wanted an independent individual to head that office. And does the President regret? The President has mentioned Ombudsman Carpio-Morales, I think, thrice in the six times that he delivered the SONA (State of the Nation Address)—2011, 2012, and I believe (in) the last SONA, he also mentioned Ombudsman Carpio-Morales. He wants someone who will look after integrity. The President expects integrity in all branches of government. And so, no, the President does not regret appointing Ombudsman Carpio-Morales,” explained the Palace official during the daily press briefing.

Ombudsman Carpio-Morales on Tuesday said during a budget hearing at the House of Representatives that President Aquino is among the subjects of the initial investigations being conducted by the Office of Ombudsman regarding the government’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

When asked if President Aquino is ready to face charges after his term ends, Lacierda replied: “In the universe of possibilities, if anybody wants to question the President subsequent to his term, there will always be people who will attempt to do so.”

“The President has mentioned already that we have disturbed a number of rice bowls. Will there be people unhappy with the government? Will there be people unhappy with the President? In the universe of possibilities, yes, there are people who will be unhappy with how we went through ‘Daang Matuwid’,” he further said.

Lacierda also said the administration has nothing to do with the Ombudsman probe.

“The power of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman Act is that the Ombudsman can motu propio investigate. She mentioned yesterday (Tuesday) it was done. She ordered the investigation motu propio. So, we were not even aware until she mentioned it yesterday,” said Lacierda.

“There is no unseen hand. This is the independence of Chit Carpio-Morales working as the Office of the Ombudsman was meant to be. To be an independent office and to be able to investigate without fear or favor,” the Palace official said. PND (jm)

Philippines pushing for harmonization of rules of origin for free trade agreements among APEC members
(CEBU CITY, Cebu) The Philippines is urging fellow member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to work towards harmonizing and simplifying the rules that determine what products can benefit from tariff, in a bid to increase the access of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to free trade agreements (FTAs) and regional trade agreements (RTAs).

At the opening of the APEC Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) Dialogue on FTAs and RTAs here Wednesday, Department of Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Ceferino Rodolfo noted that significant steps have to be taken towards addressing the “spaghetti bowl” or “noodle bowl” effect caused by FTAs and RTAs.

“Spaghetti bowl” effect refers to a problem of FTAs in rules of origin (ROO), which determines the national source of a product eligible for preferential tariffs.

The APEC policy support unit data indicated that APEC members have entered 144 FTAs, more than half of all FTAs in place globally.

Rodolfo said APEC economies have recognized that high-quality RTAs and FTAs could be important avenues to achieve free and open trade and investment.

“But we need to work to ensure the high quality, transparency and broad consistency of the RTAs and FTAs in our region. FTAs and RTAs are here to stay and APEC must continue to do its part to improve the co-existence of bilateral, regional and multilateral trade agreements,” he explained.

Rodolfo emphasized that simplifying and streamlining ROOs can facilitate the access of the MSMEs in the regional and global markets, as highlighted in the Boracay Action Agenda (BAA) to globalize MSMEs, comprising more than 90 percent of the establishments in the region.

The BBA aims to foster MSMEs’ growth through capacity building programs, facilitating their participation in global value chains (GVCs) and providing MSMEs greater opportunities.

The third APEC SOM here will focus on the implementation of the BBA, which received broad support from the 21 APEC member economies during the two-day APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade meeting held last May in Boracay, Aklan.

“By harmonizing and simplifying ROO and making its application simple and non-restrictive across different RTAs, it will help simplify trading conditions and contribute greatly to APEC and WTO’s (World Trade Organization) work on transparency,” he added.

Rodolfo, who is also the APEC 2015 Philippine Lead for Trade, said instruments developed by the APEC, such as RTAs and FTAs, should harness trade potentials.

“(These) ensure that both developing and non-developing economies benefit alike from our work. Trade is a tool for development but APEC economies should work together to spread the benefits of trade and globalization to all,” he said.

Moreover, the trade official also expressed hope that APEC can take steps towards a comprehensive and quality Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), a major instrument to further the APEC’s regional economic integration agenda.

“The Asia-Pacific region has long been an advocate for the centrality and primacy of the multilateral trading system. APEC members have worked tirelessly to strengthen the rules based, transparent, non-discriminatory, open and inclusive multilateral trading system as embodied in the WTO,” Rodolfo added. PNA (ldv)

APEC Senior Officials reaffirm commitment to counter-terrorism
(CEBU CITY, Cebu) Senior officials of member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) on Wednesday reaffirmed their continued commitment to undertake individual and joint actions to counter terrorism to foster security and resilience of businesses and communities in the region.

Chairman of the APEC Counter-Terrorism Working Group (CTWG), Oscar Valenzuela, said APEC member economies will continue implementing the work plan and the APEC Counter-Terrorism and Secure Trade Strategy.

“It must be reiterated that this plan is a living document, and we must ensure that it is able to meet the changing landscape of the fight against terrorism,” he said in his closing remarks during the 6th APEC CTWG Meeting held here.

Valenzuela, Acting Executive Director of the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Council-Program Management Center, noted that they also support deeper cooperation and capacity building across the priority areas of secure supply chains, travel, finance and infrastructure.

These initiatives will ensure that regional commerce is more secure, efficient and resilient, he added.

“It is hoped that the role of security, especially against terrorism, in building sustainable and resilient communities will have a real world impact that can be seen and felt by the people in our economies,” Valenzuela said.

The APEC CTWG chair further said that the formal reporting of individual Counter-Terrorism Action Plan is important as it provides an avenue for the economies to report on the progress of their efforts against terrorism and securing trade.

Valenzuela said other economies could possibly learn and adapt best practices. PNA (ldv)