21 May 2015

APEC News Release

APEC organizers host disco party for Senior Officials’ Meeting delegates
(BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan) The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation 2015 National Organizing Council (APEC NOC), together with other government agencies, hosted a welcome dinner for delegates to the Second Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM2) at the beachfront of the Pearl of the Pacific Boracay Resort here Wednesday.

In her welcome remarks, SOM Chair, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario, enjoined the delegates to have fun during the 1980s disco-themed party, dubbed “FuntaSea!”,

There to entertain the guests were Bituin Escalante, Ballet Philippines, Daloy Dance Company, Myke Salomon, Those Damn Nerds, Diwa De Leon Group, Coral Queenies, Boracay Fire Dancers, and the Black Beauty Boys.

The APEC NOC got help from the Department of Tourism and the Cultural Center of the Philippines in organizing Wednesday’s social event.

APEC meetings are being held here in Boracay, an island with an area of more than 1,000 hectares, to promote regional trade and tourism.

The island has an annual tourist arrival of 1.5 million and the Department of Tourism wants to increase the figure to 2.8 million by 2018.

The local government of Malay, Aklan said it is carrying out a Boracay redevelopment plan that entails the relocation of non-tourism activities to the mainland, in an effort to further boost tourism-related activities in the island. PND (as)

World Trade Organization Chief calls on President Aquino
Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Brazilian Roberto Azevêdo, paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacañang on Thursday.

Azevêdo was accompanied by his chief of staff, Tim Yeend of Australia, and counselor, Aegyoung Jung of Korea.

Joining President Aquino in welcoming the WTO officials were Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo, Acting Foreign Affairs Secretary Evan Garcia, Finance Undersecretary Carlo Carag, National Economic and Development Authority Deputy Director General Rolando Tungpalan, and Philippine Permanent Representative to the WTO, Ambassador Esteban Conejos, Jr.

Azevêdo, who arrived in the Philippines last Tuesday, is scheduled to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministers Responsible for Trade Meeting on May 23 to 24 on Boracay Island in Aklan province.

The Brazilian diplomat was elected as the sixth director general of the WTO in 2013, succeeding Pascal Lamy. PND (jm)

President Aquino receives credentials of four new ambassadors
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Thursday received the credentials of four new Resident Ambassadors-Designate to the Philippines at the Music Room of Malacañang Palace.

First to present his credentials was David John Strachan of New Zealand. He was joined by his country’s Defense Attaché Colonel Nigel Cliffe, Manager of the New Zealand Aid Programme Hannah Walton-France, Market Manager of Immigration of New Zealand Penelope Ann Chitty, and Policy Adviser Kristoffer Rada.

Next was Phoxay Khaykhamphithoune of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, who was accompanied by his spouse Souddavone Khaykhamphithoune, Second Secretary Phoungern Soukvilai, and Third Secretary Aksonsavanh Sihabandith.

From the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Bin Nasser Al-Basiri presented his credentials to President Aquino. With him were Chargé d’ Affaires Ishaq Ibrahim Aloraini, First Secretary Ayman Abdulghani Bedaiwi, and Second Secretary Fahad Eid Alrshidy.

Last was Thanatip Upatising from the Kingdom of Thailand, who was accompanied by his wife Monthip Upatising, Defense and Air Force Attaché Group Captain Washirask Poosit, Minister Counselor and Consul Somjai Taphaopong, and First Secretary Sirimon Atipatya.

As Resident Ambassadors, they received arrival honors at the Malacañang Grounds before proceeding to the Music Room. PND (ag)

United Nations, International Organization for Migration laud Philippines’ willingness to help refugees
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have thanked the Philippine government for its willingness to support migrants and refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar currently stranded in the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca.

“We welcome (Justice) Secretary de Lima’s declaration and are reassured that the right to asylum will be upheld. The Philippines has a strong humanitarian tradition of international protection in support of voiceless refugees. UNHCR is asking countries in Southeast Asia to approach this as a regional issue with real human consequences. It has been engaging governments in the region on the growing problem of irregular maritime movements,” UNHCR Representative in the Philippines, Bernard Kerblat, said.

During her meeting with Kerblat on Tuesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima proposed that the Philippines and other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) send ships to rescue the boat people.

The IOM’s Chief of Mission in the Philippines, Marco Boasso, also commended the Philippines, saying, “It is very clear that these people are in need of humanitarian assistance from the international community and governments in the region. IOM is ready to support the Government of the Philippines and our humanitarian partners in finding sustainable solutions for this group.”

The heads of the UNHCR and IOM, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Migration and Development have issued a joint statement calling on governments in the Southeast Asian region and the international community to help the stranded migrants.

Meanwhile, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. on Thursday reaffirmed the Philippine government’s commitment to provide humanitarian succor and relief as a signatory to the UN conventions relating to refugees and stateless persons.

“We are mindful that we are constrained by resource limitations, especially considering that we are still in the midst of implementing a massive rehabilitation and reconstruction program for areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda,” Coloma said.

He said the Philippines’ commitment was concretely demonstrated through its cooperation with the UN in establishing the Philippine Refugee Processing Center in Morong, Bataan in 1980, which operated until the mid-1990’s.

The Center, with funding from the UNHCR and support from various international aid agencies, assisted refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in seeking admission to resettlement nations such as the United States, Canada, Norway and France.

“We are in continuing dialogue with the local office of the UNHCR on how the Philippines may be able to meaningfully fulfill its commitment to the attainment of the UN’s humanitarian objectives,” Coloma said.

The Philippines is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.

Thousands of migrants and refugees are currently stranded on smugglers’ boats in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca. Some are being held captive by smugglers demanding ransoms from their families, while others were left by their crews with little food and water following Thailand’s crackdown on human trafficking. PND (jm)

Critics free to question legality of Bangsamoro draft law, says Palace
A Palace official on Thursday said those against the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) are free to challenge its legality before the Supreme Court.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said all the provisions in the proposed law have been scrutinized and carefully studied to follow the provisions of the Constitution.

“Simula sa pagbubuo nitong BBL ay isinaalang-alang na ang bawat probisyon nito ay dapat tumalima sa Saligang Batas,” Secretary Coloma said during a press briefing.

The House of Representatives ad hoc committee has approved the proposed law on Wednesday but a draft Senate report said the BBL requires Charter change.

Senator Miriam Santiago has also issued a statement saying the BBL will face legal challenge.

“Mahalaga na ang lahat ng probisyon ng Bangsamoro Basic Law ay tumatalima sa Saligang Batas. Nasa pagpapasya ng buong Kamara at ng buong Senado ang pagpasa sa BBL. Ayon sa proseso ng ating batas, kung mayroong nais kumuwestiyon sa legalidad pagkatapos maipasa ang isang batas, may pagkakataon silang ihain ang kanilang petisyon sa Korte Suprema,” said Coloma. PND (jm)

APEC member economies must liberalize to sustain economic growth, says official
The Philippines and other member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) must be ready to liberalize because they cannot afford to be left behind in a rapidly globalizing world, a foreign affairs official has said.

In a press conference on Thursday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario was asked about the Philippines’ readiness for free trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

“I think (the Philippines is) as ready as the average APEC member because if you look at the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), there are 12 members. We are 21 (in the APEC), that means nine are not there. But even among the 12, there a couple, two or three of them, who say that they see the negotiations as challenging to them because they have to do some domestic law changes,” said del Rosario, who chairs the APEC 2015 Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM).

Citing an example, she said Vietnam and Malaysia have to do their respective legislative changes to cope with liberalization.

“It is not how ready you are or how not ready are you. Definitely, for me whether you go into TPP or not, you have to be ready somehow, because at the rate things are changing in the economic world, you cannot afford not to be ready,” she said.

Every economy must be ready because even if an economy is not a member of the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP), being unprepared would mean less investment, even less jobs, coming in, del Rosario explained.

Corporations with huge pools of money are not going to invest in an economy because they want to extend help, instead they want to make profit, she noted, adding that they want to go into an economy that is very efficient, where doing business is easy, and the cost of doing business is low.

Those are the objectives of the APEC so economies can make things easier for businesses and investors, ensure less choke points and have the right human capital to produce what they want, she said.

“And if we have those processes, definitely, we will attract these people,” she added.

Asia-Pacific leaders who met in China last year agreed to move toward a new free trade zone strongly backed by Beijing. They agreed to launch a study on the FTAAP.

The United States, on the other hand, is currently negotiating a separate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). PND (as)