APEC delegates praise Aquino's 'economic stewardship'
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigo Aquino III met with various country and business leaders in Beijing, China, for the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Chief Executive Officers (APEC CEO) summit, where they praised him and his administration’s “economic stewardship.”
Moody's Corporation president and CEO Raymond McDaniel, Jr. praised Aquino’s economic stewardship that resulted in several ratings upgrades in only a short period of time.
McDaniel also complimented Aquino’s “remarkable performance and for the positive outlook that the country continues to maintain amid a slowing global economy,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
Aquino responded to McDaniel that he has a good Cabinet, “whose members make personal sacrifices to serve the country,” Lacierda said.
To date, the Philippines received 20 positive credit ratings actions from agencies around the world, including investment grade statuses from 3 most renowned firms like Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch. Also, the World Economic Forum named the Philippines as the "most improved" country since 2010 in its recent competitiveness report.
Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), said that despite the challenging scenario of global economic uncertainty, Aquino has implemented polices that sustain the country's competitiveness, Gurria told the APEC CEO summit delegates.
"But what about investment and innovation as a critical variable in terms of the policies necessary for our competitiveness? Now, I have to say here, President Aquino has done a great job in this score. Actually, it is very impressive. In doing business, the ranking went up just like a rocket. That’s doing very well," Gurria said.
Health care company Sanofi, meanwhile, complimented the Philippines’ investment in health care.
Aquino stressed the importance of preventive care over curative measures, and added that investing in health is investing in human capital, which provides for sustainable economic development, Lacierda said.
In his speech at the APEC CEO Summit on November 9, Aquino said “there is no better time to invest in the Philippines than now,” given its steady economic growth.
“This is an indicator of a more balanced and more resilient economy—one that can better withstand shocks and one that is consequently more attractive to investors,” President Aquino said.
Aquino also stressed that “good governance is good economics.”
“We assure all of you: our efforts will not stop here. We are looking to go from strength to strength. One way we are doing this is by making investments in our greatest resource, the Filipino people, because we know that it is through empowering them that we can sustain our country’s momentum,” Aquino said.
Strengthening ties, extending gratitude
Aquino’s bilateral meetings with various country leaders focused on reaffirming “strong ties,” and thanking those countries which helped, and still helping in the rehabilitation efforts in areas of Eastern Visayas which were severely hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan).
Aquino thanked Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his country's assistance.
"The President thanked Canada for the support that it had provided, overwhelming support for the [survivors] of Yolanda," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario said in a press briefing at the Philippine Embassy in Beijing.
"He (Harper) wanted to know what the progress was in terms of the reconstruction and rehabilitation, so the President explained where we are on that," Del Rosario added.
The two leaders also discussed the inclusion of the Philippines as a “country of focus” in Canada’s development program, Del Rosario said.
"There was also a benefit given to the Philippines in terms of a trade priority under what they call a GMA program, which focuses on providing two-way trade and market access to the Philippines," Del Rosario said.
The two leaders also discussed President Aquino’s visit to Canada in 2015.
Aquino also met with Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, and discussed the two countries’ focus on enhanced trade and investment cooperation.
“The Philippines has committed to send a scoping mission to Papua New Guinea for trade and investment cooperation,” Del Rosario said.
In particular, the Philippines wants to advance its cooperation in health services because it appears that the country is emerging as a favored destination for “medical tourism.”
“We are being asked to advance our cooperation in education, specifically technical and vocational programs. It seems that many PNG nationals are now studying in the Philippines,” the Foreign Affairs chief said.
Del Rosario also shared a discussion on the “deepening of a cooperation in agriculture between Manila and Port Moresby,” with the Laguna-based International Rice Research Institute currently exploring suitable rice species for Papua New Guinea.
Both countries also agreed to cooperate with each other during their respective hosting of the APEC summits.
The Philippines will host the APEC Summit in 2015 while PNG will chair the summit in 2018.
Aquino also thanked New Zealand for its support in the Mindanao Peace Process.
In a bilateral meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, Aquino also updated the leader on the government's efforts to “build back better” for the Yolanda survivors, Del Rosario said.
The President also thanked New Zealand for the expansion of air links between the Philippines and that country.
The Philippines also sought New Zealand's support for the local dairy industry, as well as technical assistance to improve the production of mussels in the Philippines.
In turn, Key thanked the Philippines for its support for New Zealand’s candidacy in the United Nations Security Council, Del Rosario said.
On the other hand, both Aquino and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha expressed their commitment to strengthen their cooperation on a multilateral basis in both APEC and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In particular, the two ASEAN countries intend to promote greater cooperation in trade and investment, with greater focus on support for our SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and our farmers, Del Rosario said.
Aquino also thanked the Thai Prime Minister Thailand’s assistance to Yolanda survivors.
Prayuth is visiting the Philippines as well.
“We welcome the forthcoming visit of the Prime Minister to the Philippines. I understand also that their foreign minister will also be visiting separately,” Del Rosario said.
Roadmap toward a strategic partnership
Del Rosario also shared that the Philippines and Vietnam will start discussions in December on the roadmap toward a strategic partnership to enhance their economic and cultural ties.
The roadmap will focus on improving the trade, investment, and people-to-people exchanges of the two countries, Del Rosario said.
Asked why the Philippines decided to make Vietnam a strategic partner, just like the US and Japan, Del Rosario said Vietnam and the Philippines share a “special bond.”
"I think that it is mostly driven by our close ties with them, and we actually have entered into a strong commitment to be able to bring our relations closer, and the way to do this is through some form of a comprehensive strategic partnership," Del Rosario said.
The main challenge though is for the two countries to define what exactly “strategic partnership” mean to them.
“The Philippines and Vietnam need to integrate their thoughts in terms of what they mean by ‘comprehensive strategic partnership.' But I think there is enough of a history in terms of our relations and the fact that we have very close ties, to get us to where we want to go," Del Rosario added.
Vietnam will host the APEC Summit in 2017, and Aquino expressed the Philippines support to Vietnam’s chairmanship of the meeting.
Aquino is also attending the 25th ASEAN Summit in Myanmar, which will run until Thursday, November 13. – Rappler.com
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