FULL TEXT: PNoy opens retreat of 23rd APEC leaders' meeting


MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday opened the retreat of the 23rd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

The high-level event was attended by economic leaders of the 21 member economies of APEC.

LIVE UPDATES: APEC 2015 meetings in Manila

Read Aquino's full speech as prepared for the event:

Fellow Leaders, good morning. It is my honor to welcome you to the 23rd APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting.

Nearly two decades since our last hosting, APEC returns to the Philippines in a milestone year, not just for the Asia-Pacific, but for the world. This year, we are five years away from the Bogor goals 2020; and we mark the end of the UN Millennium Development Goals, and the beginning of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Conference of Parties or COP 21 in Paris also hopes to make a lasting impact on climate change, and we hope to advance the implementation of the Bali Package at the WTO Conference 10 in Kenya. It is certainly an opportune time for us to reflect on how to move into the future.

This APEC hosting also presents the chance for the Philippines to showcase the results of reform. These past five years, the Philippines has experienced strong economic growth—our fastest in nearly four decades, thanks to good governance and critical structural reforms throughout our bureaucracy, allied with the support and commitment of the public at large. Furthermore, we are proud of our growth not just for growth’s sake, but because the Philippines has set aside trickle down economics and chosen to invest in our people so that our growth is felt by each and every citizen. We threw our full support behind programs such as our conditional cash transfer program, training for work scholarships, and a universal healthcare program, all of which help our people regain control of their own destinies.

As a founding member of APEC, the Philippines approach to APEC has always been guided by our common aspiration for Asia Pacific prosperity. It is this idea that has prompted us to choose the theme: “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World,” which represents our vision for an Asia-Pacific the embraces a growth agenda that benefits everyone.

Building on APEC’s achievements over the past generation, the Philippines hosts APEC with a people-centered agenda that embraces all segments of society as invaluable participants in a growth that is holistic: growth that creates jobs, sends children to school, puts food on the table, raises standards of living, protects the environment, fosters creativity and innovation, and levels the playing field. In short, growth that balances the pressing needs of the present with our shared mission of leaving behind a region and a world that is better than we found it.

Thus, I am hopeful that this year’s Retreat will become an incubator for ideas that improve our region’s prospects for the future. It will be divided into two sessions, the first being “Inclusive Growth through Regional Economic Integration” and the second being “Inclusive Growth through Sustainable and Resilient Communities.”

Indeed, the main challenge for all of us is finding a way to sustain and strengthen quality growth, particularly by considering policy responses that promote inclusivity, while addressing the current domestic and external challenges to APEC’s growth.

It is undeniable that factors outside trade will influence economic growth, and our discussions must be able to identify and define the foundations for sustained and quality growth beyond 2020, and to lay out what needs to be done in the areas of social inclusion, institution building, and environmental responsibility.

Today, we shall assess where we are, and decide where we want to go, so that we can plan how to get there. Together, we can write a growth story with a vision of economic prosperity and interconnectedness felt at all levels. As regional economic integration continues to take form, APEC’s role – when viewed through the prism of inclusive growth – will be defined not only according to the future of economies but also of the people that drive economic growth.

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