Press Briefing

Pre-departure briefing of Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Strategic Communications and Research Ernesto Abella on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Participation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Papua New Guinea

Event Pre-departure briefing
Location New Executive Building, Malacañang


I’d like to begin first with an opening statement to minimize questions. [laughter]

All right. Good morning, Malacañang Press Corps.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte joins 20 other leaders and representatives of the economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea from the 17th to the 18th of November as they gather for the 19th APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting for 2018.

This is a new era for Filipino engagement on the world stage. The Asia Pacific region represents the epicenter of global growth making APEC the most important economic cooperation platform in the world.

And as one of the best performing economies and the fastest growing region the world, the Philippines has much to contribute as well as much to gain from a fruitful discussion with our neighbors, friends and allies in APEC.

We will stand tall as we advance and assert peace, prosperity and independence in pursuit of a comfortable and secure life for the Filipino people.

APEC has served as an incubator for new ideas and concepts in furthering inclusive growth and economic development in the region. The forum has facilitated initiatives that encourage greater cooperation, collaboration, connectivity, innovation, reform and transformation among institutions and organizations in civil society, public and private sectors and services as well as the academe.

Over 21 countries comprise APEC. Countries are referred to as economies and presidents and prime ministers are identified as leaders of economies.

APEC allows economies to engage what are called customs territories such as Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong China. APEC has been at the forefront of reducing tariffs and trade barriers in the region and facilitating the flow of investments and movement of people across the region.

Papua New Guinea plays host to APEC for the first time since joining the forum in 1993. For its part, the Philippines played host to APEC in 1996 and 2015.

Papua New Guinea is interestingly home to over 40,000 Filipinos and over 200 Philippine companies operate in the country.

The Philippines provides important services to the people of PNG. Foremost of which is agricultural expertise, assisting local rice growers to improve yields and to maximize efficiency.

President Duterte received Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill during his official visit to the Philippines in May of 2018 this year.

Meanwhile, over 5.7 million Filipinos overseas reside in the APEC region. Filipinos in the region contribute 57 percent of remittances to the Philippines and the Philippine trade with APEC economies comprise 84 percent of the Philippines total trade worldwide with 82 percent of our merchandise exports destined for the APEC region. In turn, 85 percent of all imports to the Philippines come from its economic partners in APEC. Also, about 83 percent of tourist arrivals to the Philippines also come from the APEC region.

At the forum, the President will join a dialogue before prominent business leaders during the summit of chief executive officers of the APEC Business Advisory Council or ABAC and meet with leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum.

The President joins other leaders in affirming commitment to an international rules-based regime support of the multilateral trading system embodied by organizations like the World Trade Organization.

The President conveys his support for mechanisms that will enable our MSMEs, or MSMEs as they call it, to take advantage of digital and online platforms to benefit their enterprises and to bring their products and services overseas.

To this end, the APEC adopted the Boracay Action Agenda in working towards enabling MSMEs in the region to link internationally.

He joins other leaders also in support to formulating a new and inclusive APEC Vision beyond the year 2020. He calls attention to our efforts of ensuring food security for our people and advancing economic opportunities for women.

Within APEC, the government is preparing Filipinos to meet the challenges and opportunities of a digital world or artificial intelligence, blockchains, big data, and the internet of things are redefining the way we do business, deliver services and education of the young especially orienting them now towards sciences, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.

As we look forward to participating and contributing to the APEC Forum, we are reminded of values that guide our foreign policy which is advancing peace and prosperity in pursuit of a comfortable and secure life for all Filipinos.

The Philippines has entered a brave new era of engagement on the world stage.

End of statement.


Q: Sir, will the President visit the Filipino community in Papua New Guinea?

USEC. ABELLA: Yes, there’s going — there’s a planned FilCom meeting with approximately 40,000 people — 40,000 Filipinos based there. He is scheduled to meet up with them.

Q: Usec, how about bilateral meetings? Will the President have bilateral meetings with fellow leaders?

USEC. ABELLA: He will have a — there’s bound to be a… They have a lot of… [What do you call…? Let me read to you this. What do you call it?]

A lot of it is going to be taken up in dialogues with… But there… As far as we know, there haven’t been any specific bilat meetings.

Q: But there will — there will be… There are efforts to organize meetings?

USEC. ABELLA: As far as I know — it hasn’t reached my desk yet. But I know that there’ll be a lot of dialogues with other partner countries.

Q: Thank you, Usec.

Q: Good morning, Usec. Usec, I wonder if you could talk more about the trade agenda in the summit like what are the issues that the President intends to raise? And of course we know that trade deals like the CPTPP or the TPP-11 will be discussed in APEC. Is President Duterte inclined to join — to have the Philippines join the new so-called TPP-11? Thank you.

USEC. ABELLA: There will be discussions although we have not had — we have not received any of the President’s position at this stage. But there will be a number of discussions along that line.

Q: Sir, who will be part of the official delegation? Same lang po din ba with the delegation in Singapore?

USEC. ABELLA: As far as I know, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs will be there but he will not — he may miss the… There’s an overlap meeting on the 15th. But aside from that, the Secretary of Trade will be there.

I’m not sure yet, it hasn’t been confirmed but I did hear that Secretary Dominguez may be joining them.

Otherwise, we’re good. Yes, okay.

Q: Sir, I wonder if there… Are there any plans for President Duterte to meet with Vice — US Vice President Pence or for PNG, the Russian Prime Minister Medvedev?

USEC. ABELLA: As far as I know, the President is… There are no set meetings regarding these matters.

But he continues to engage all the leaders from all the nations. But the first and foremost engagement he will have is with the Filipino community.

Q: Sir and speaking of that, could you elaborate on the profile of the Filipino community in Papua New Guinea? You mentioned there are about 40,000 of them. Like what industries? What would be their profile? What kind of professions do they have? And do we see increasing relations with PNG given the visits by both leaders to each of the two countries?

USEC. ABELLA: Mainly services — mainly services and skilled services. But I think first and fore — in the forefront and which is very interesting is the way that our Filipino agriculturists are being used especially to — especially to help in the increase of…

In fact, if I’m right, the beginnings of and the propagation of and the increase of rice production in the area, apparently, it has begun with our rice experts. And so it is along these lines that our Filipino workers are used. A lot of skills. Thank you.

Q: Usec, we’ve had APEC summits before. What would make this summit in Papua New Guinea different for the Philippines?

USEC. ABELLA: Well, as I mentioned earlier, there’s going to be an increased emphasis on MSMEs,  on micro, small and medium enterprises, especially in being able to bring — to mainstream them in the global market. And so aside from that…

Well, the others of course, reduction of tariffs and stuff like that. But greater participation for our micro, small and medium enterprises; greater opportunities; greater assistance; greater — for example transport technology.

And so these are going to be very exciting especially for the so-called MSMEs, micro, small and medium enterprises.

Q: So we can say that’s the central message of the President when he comes to the summit?

USEC. ABELLA: Basically the theme, for example let me just reiterate this: “Harnessing Inclusive Opportunities and Embracing the Digital Future.”

Since we are orienting the nation towards being able to participate in the increasingly digital world, that is also going to be the emphasis not just of the forum itself but also of the President making sure that our own economies are more inclusive and are more participative especially for the smaller groups.

Thank you very much.


SOURCE: PCOO – PND (Presidential News Desk)