Inclusion after APEC? Hope Springs!
The Philippines’ hosting of the 27th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings is such a tremendous undertaking, culminating in the arrival in Manila of the leaders of 21 member-economies headed by the United States, China, Russia and Japan for discussions on trade and economic issues, as well as (the) terrorist attacks in Paris and possibly the conflict in the South China Sea. The leaders’ summit caps the yearlong meetings of Apec ministers and other officials on regional trade concerns involving policies and reforms, held in various cities nationwide through the efforts of a public-private partnership aimed at pushing the Philippine agenda forward from 1996, when it first served as Apec host.
Small potatoes it’s definitely not: For what Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma called the “flawless, seamless, hassle-free hosting” of the leaders’ summit and ministers’ meetings in Manila and others held in Cebu, Iloilo, Subic, Clark and Boracay, as much as P10 billion has been budgeted. It cannot be ascertained if that amount will ever be broken down for the benefit of those who demand de numero behavior from the proponents of daang matuwid. Suffice it to say it’s generally accepted that such events require a tidy sum, that sum representing an “investment,” or, as put by Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., the director general of the Apec 2015 National Organizing Council, “something that stems out of our own membership in multilateral forums.”
It’s unfortunate that the savage attacks in Paris claimed worldwide attention (but in fact they should, displaying as they did a level of barbarity to be roundly condemned and not countenanced); the Philippines as Apec host would otherwise have been at center stage for one moment in time, undimmed by the terrorist attacks’ malevolent shadow. As it happens, while already deemed too drastic early on, the security arrangements for the Apec summit are on seeming overdrive, with Metro Manila locked down as though it were—and, in a manner of speaking, it is—under siege.
Far be it from us to carp about government efforts to protect the leaders of the world’s incumbent and emerging superpowers, other heads of state, and at least 7,000 delegates. For them to be on Philippine soil, taking part in a conference under the aegis of the Philippine government, is an opportunity not to be missed. As we noted in this space (early Novemeber), in the formulation of businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, it’s time the Philippines engaged and seized the chance to exercise leadership in a global setting. But regrettably, the general public is not in on things, is excluded, as it were. If things had been planned better, think how easily that public would have seized the chance to pull together with the Aquino administration to make the Philippines’ Apec hosting an unqualified success.
(As Apec began) when residents south of Manila found themselves obliged, under a blazing sun, to walk to get to their workplaces, to do important errands, even to undergo hospital checkups and dialysis sessions because major roads were blocked and no alternative means of transport could be had, they angrily wondered why they were being treated so badly. It is not an unfair question; it actually strikes at the core of an exclusionary strategy employed by authorities. Fidel V. Ramos, during whose presidency the Philippines successfully served as Apec host in Subic in 1996, was not gloating when he said that “sadly, the people are not enjoying the event because of so many obstructions, disruptions, restrictions, cancelled flights, and traffic inhibitions.”
“We should be a one-country team helping to put Apec together because the people are the most interested stakeholders, [not just the Malacanang officials, not just the police],” Ramos said. Indeed.
The Apec discussions have been designed to focus on inclusive growth, or how to bring the benefits of open markets to ordinary citizens—presumably including a grimy family of four observed on the sidewalk of a bridge early in Apec Week, apparently having eluded the dragnet cast on vagrants who complained to TV reporters that they were “imprisoned” in Boys Town. The parents were sprawled asleep amid bags that seemed to hold their worldly belongings; their two girls were a couple of meters down—one maybe four years old, the other looking younger—eating something out of a small plastic bag. How long before such a scene of exclusion, from which the motorists caught in traffic on the bridge averted their eyes, becomes just a bad memory? Hope springs!
(PDI Editorial/ 11/19/2015)