ALMOST two decades ago, the Philippines took the spotlight as host and chair of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit for the very first time, seven years after its birth in 1989. Eighteen heads from member countries, including world leaders (then US President Bill Clinton and former Chinese President Jiang Zemin) converged in the high-profile event that was held in Subic Bay, Zambales.
“As soon as we learned that the Philippines was definitely going to host in November 1996, we agreed—congress, the private sector, even the judiciary, plus the common people, the NGOs—that this is our chance to showcase the Philippines,” recalled former President Fidel V. Ramos.
The government and the private sector pulled together and spent millions of dollars for roadwork, airport expansion projects, construction and renovation of buildings, and even spruced up the golf course in Subic.
Ramos explained, “Let’s set the record straight. The public funds invested in Subic and Clark, in between Central Luzon and connections to Manila, were all part of our development funds to provide better services and utilities for our growing population.”
“We had the problem of connectivities, not only highways but also telecommunications and access to the rest of the world through the internet and even cyberspace. We made all those arrangements not just for Subic, but as part of our development programs.”
Ex-President FVR appointed key people for the prime concerns of the forthcoming event, such as security, logistics, finance, trade and economics and coordination with the other APEC governments. Aside from these, physical infrastructures and showcasing were also considered as parts of the cruxes in hosting the APEC Leaders’ Summit. Thus, FVR and his constituents built 21 luxury villas in Subic for the country leaders, their wives and the members of their delegation, plus constructing a new expressway connecting Manila to Subic.
Among the highlights of the APEC 1996 was the adoption of the Manila Action Plan for APEC (MAPA). It followed through on the vision articulated in 1993 in Seattle, promoting the spirit of community among Asia-Pacific economies—thus the three pillars: member-economy individual action plans, collective action plans, and joint activities for economic and technical cooperation.
Recognizing the vital role of business, APEC 1996 also underscored the creation of APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The organization aims to provide advice on the implementation of the APEC agenda and on specific business sector priorities. ABAC comes with five cores, to wit, infrastructure, finance and investment, small and medium enterprise (SME), human resources development, the facilitation of cross-border flows, and deepening a sense of community in the Asia-Pacific region.