Choice of Apec confab sitesBy Raul J. Palabrica
Philippine Daily Inquirer
After 19 years, the Philippines will have the opportunity to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2015.
Apec was organized in 1989 to foster economic prosperity among countries that ring the Pacific Ocean which include the United States, Japan, Australia, China and Russia.
The forthcoming conference will involve discussions by senior officials and ministers of the member countries starting in December 2014 and will culminate with the leaders’ meeting in November 2015.
The country hosted the Fourth Apec Summit in 1996. Then President Fidel Ramos pulled all stops to make its venue, Subic Bay, presentable and comfortable to the dignitaries.
The leaders met in a brand new building equipped with state-of-the-art conference facilities. Several cabanas were even built to the specifications of their guests who used them for, at most, four hours only.
The 1996 summit went well. No untoward incidents marred it. It helped that it was held in the tightly-controlled premises of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority which was then led by Chair Richard Gordon.
At that time, the country was experiencing an economic boom. The economic liberalization program of the Ramos administration attracted record foreign investments. This development led some international financial analysts to describe the Philippines as one of Asia’s “emerging economic tigers.”
By uncanny coincidence, the 2015 summit will be held in the midst of an economic resurgence that has seen the country’s gross national product grow substantially and its international credit rating improve to investment grade.
Properly handled, the summit presents a good opportunity for the country to improve its image in the international community.
For this purpose, President Aquino has created a National Organizing Council to manage and supervise all the tasks and activities related to the successful hosting of the conference.
The council has yet to announce the calendar of events and venues for the discussions that will form as basis of the agreements that the leaders of the member countries will enter into during their meeting.
According to reports, at least 10 of the 63 events planned for the Apec conference will be hosted by the province of Albay under Gov. Joey Salceda.
Salceda has offered the facilities of Misibis Bay resort, a world class private tropical hideaway built on a beach at the southern tip of Caragay Island in Bacaray, Albay as venue for the meetings.
In choosing the venues for the meetings, the organizing committee said it would take into consideration logistical requirements, accommodations, infrastructure and, most importantly, the security of the participating heads of government.
The selection of the sites is critical because reports of inadequacies or shortcomings in the conduct of the conference would certainly invite adverse publicity in the international media, not to mention the ubiquitous social media.
The committee’s short list on possible venues includes Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod and Tagaytay. Also under consideration are Boracay, Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga and Subic Bay in Zambales.
Metro Manila? If the committee wants the 2015 Apec summit to succeed, it should discard the idea of holding its events in Metro Manila.
Despite MMDA chair Francis Tolentino’s claim about the “beauty” of his domain, there is no way the metropolis’ horrendous traffic situation, bad roads, dirty streets, unsightly shanties and other forms of urban blight can make the Apec conference a pleasant experience for the hundreds of delegates who will descend on the country for that purpose.
Two years is grossly insufficient to prepare Metro Manila for an event that is expected to attract world wide attention because of the impact on the global economy of the agreements that would be reached by the Apec members.
Neither are Tagaytay City and Boracay any better. They do not have the infrastructure and facilities needed to host a high level international activity like the Apec summit. As it is, these tourist spots are already strained to the limits in meeting the needs of their present patrons.
Although Davao, Iloilo and Bacolod have in recent years made remarkable strides in their infrastructure and commercial facilities, they are still insufficient to be able to satisfactorily host an event as demanding and sophisticated as an Apec summit.
In terms of accommodations alone, there are not enough decent rooms in these cities to house and feed the horde of officials, delegates, staff and media people who will participate in the event.
To be realistic and pragmatic about the whole thing, only Cebu, Clark Freeport Zone and Subic are the places worthy of consideration in the selection of the venues for the conference, especially the leaders’ summit.
Right now, except for Subic whose instrument landing equipment were transferred elsewhere after Federal Express (the giant international cargo delivery company) relocated to China, only Cebu and Clark have airport facilities that can adequately and efficiently handle international flights.
Between now and 2015, the government though has enough time to restore Subic’s airport to its erstwhile quality standing when Federal Express used as it as its hub in this part of the world.
Hosting international events is not new to Cebu, Clark and Subic. They have done it several times before and with flying colors. They meet the criteria for logistical requirements, accommodations, infrastructure and security of the 2015 Apec summit.
All things fair and equal, if the security of the Apec leaders is the government’s primordial concern, then the choice should be narrowed down between Clark and Subic. Security measures can be more strictly and efficiently enforced in these virtual enclaves.
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