Give way to APEC summiteers
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - October 29, 2015 - 10:00am

On a scale of one to 10 – with 10 as the highest level of preparedness – the Philippines is at the 8.5-mark ready to host the 27th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit happening soon in Manila. APEC 2015 - National Organizing Council (NOC) Director General Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr. estimated how much of their preparatory works have been completed so far to ensure the successful holding of this year’s biggest international event taking place here in our country.

From his latest checklist of to-do’s for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM), Paynor noted the remaining undone part of the preparations are just minor refinements and adjustments. “We are almost there,” Paynor quipped.

Paynor, along with Department of Trade and Industry Sec. Gregory Domingo, and Police Director Manny Gaerlan, commander of the Joint Task Group on Peace and Order for APEC summit briefed us on the latest updates of the country’s preparations for the APEC next month during our weekly Kapihan sa Manila Bay last Wednesday at Luneta Hotel.

The APEC summit meeting itself will take place on November 18-19. Paynor made a mental calculation of 19 days left before D-Day of the summit.

So far, however, there is no indication whatsoever that there would be any leader who would not be able to attend, Paynor cited. He disclosed even the newly elected leader of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Pierre James Trudeau is among those whose attendance has been confirmed.

It will be the first-ever APEC summit for the 43-year- old Trudeau who won the Canadian Parliament election only last October 20. The Prime Minister-designate of Canada will be officially sworn into office on November 4.

Paynor also bared the receipt of confirmation from the government of Australia on the participation of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The Australian leader is also newly installed into office after their Parliament elections last September 14. This APEC summit will likewise be his first.

“If we go by historical data, very few leaders did not come (in past APEC summits) mostly because they could not for internal domestic reasons like mostly an election in their country,” Paynor recalled.

Paynor, however, stopped short of other APEC leaders who have confirmed their coming for the summit, except citing those who have announced their trips to Manila for the APEC.

As of this date, only US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have made their respective official announcements of their attendance to APEC Manila.

 But the most awaited confirmation of attendance is that of President Xi Jinping from the People’s Republic of China.

Notwithstanding the bilateral irritants between the Philippines and China on the overlapping maritime claims in South China Sea, thankfully it has not come to a point that leaders of the two countries would snub each other out of spite.

In fact, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III attended the APEC summit that China hosted in Beijing last year. President Aquino formally received from Chinese leader the turnover to Manila of this year’s hosting of the annual AELM.

Asked about China’s confirmation of Chinese President Xi’s APEC participation, Paynor riposted: “China has not officially confirmed but there is no indication they will not come.” His best gauge, he admitted, was the fact that China sent their advance team along with other member-economies that have been participating in the ocular inspections of various venues and sites of meetings for the AELM.

The Philippines will also play host to the dialogue between the alliance composed of four Latin-American countries and APEC. The leaders of the four Latin-American countries include APEC member-economies of Chile, Peru and Mexico. The fourth – Colombia – is not yet an APEC member. But Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is coming over to participate in “observer” status in the APEC summit.

 Before the summit, Chile President Michelle Bachelet is making a state visit in Manila on November 16, Paynor announced. Then, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is arriving next for a state visit also on November 17.

Since the Philippines took over the APEC chairmanship in December last year, Paynor counted 44 APEC meetings from senior ministers level have been held here in various parts of the country from Clark in Pampanga and Subic in Zambales to Cebu, Boracay and Iloilo.

Before the summit day itself, Paynor pointed out nine more meetings will be held from Nov. 12. These meetings include the APEC CEO (Chief Executive Officers) Summit; APEC SME (Small-Medium Enterprises) Summit; and the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) Dialogue with the Leaders.  

On this note, Domingo said he will be among the busiest Cabinet officials attending to these APEC meetings under his jurisdiction as DTI Secretary. Although President Aquino has accepted Domingo’s resignation from the Cabinet, it will take effect in December yet after the APEC.

While there would business establishments that would be temporarily disturbed and much inconvenience caused to the general public with the APEC traffic re-routing, Domingo assuaged us these would be more than compensated by the projected economic benefits that would accrue to the Filipino people in the long term.

Offhand, Director Gaerlan revealed at the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel, they have asked the private contractors of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to suspend ongoing construction works along the APEC routes, especially those along the three Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals.

Also, major roads that would be utilized during the APEC meetings like EDSA, NAIA, Roxas Boulevard and routes connected to the five-star hotels where the international leaders and other delegates are billeted would be closed to traffic.

It goes without saying, these APEC roads are also considered “no rally zones” for the usual anti-APEC and other protest groups.

In the name of security, all private commercial airlines are also enjoined to give way to the APEC summiteers until Nov. 20 by which time they would have flown back to their respective countries.


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