APEC: More Fun in the Philippines!
12th February 2013 by Reuben Levermore, Manila | 1 Comment
When the members of the APEC Business Advisory Council met in Manila some weeks ago, they were probably not expecting to dance for their country. But in the Philippines, it pays to come prepared to perform!
After the formation of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (commonly known by its acronym, APEC) in 1989 to bring together the economies of the Pacific rim, it was felt that there should be a matching initiative for the businesspeople of those economies. The APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) was created in 1995 as an independent high-level group of business people who advise leaders of the APEC economies on priority issues for business in the region. The Philippines has strong ties to ABAC. Former Foreign Secretary of the Philippines (1992-1995) Bobby Romulo played a key role in getting ABAC off the ground, and Manila hosts the ABAC Secretariat.
ABAC comprises of up to three members of the private sector from each economy, and New Zealand is represented by Tony Nowell, Wayne Boyd and Maxine Simmons. Stephen Jacobi of the New Zealand International Business Forum, which provides policy advice and support to the New Zealand ABAC team, joined the group in Manila. New Zealand’s former Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Allan Bollard, who last month became the Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, was also present.
Regional diplomatic meetings in Asia often include a formal gala dinner that features a cultural performance from the host country. The organisers of last month’s ABAC meeting in Manila stamped a very Filipino mark on proceedings with some outstanding musical performances that gripped the audience’s attention – Acapulco, Jazz and then 80s pop by well-known Filipino performer Gary Valenciano (or “Mr Pure Energy”). In the Philippines, it seems, nearly everyone can sing, while some can sing outstandingly well. And as the Philippines’ own tourism slogan goes, “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”. So when Filipino ABAC member Doris Magsaysay-Ho urged visitors to join the dancefloor, led by some willing compatriots, they did just that.
The “ABAC disco” of January 2013 may well be a taste of things to come when the Philippines hosts APEC in 2015. And if the current strong performance of the Philippines economy can be sustained, then the country will by then have an investment grade credit rating, and something to really sing about!